Official figures: training contracts plummet by 12.5% over last decade

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By Judge John Hack on

Tough conditions for wannabe solicitors continue — as stats show London tightens grip on training contract market


Law firm training contracts have nosedived by nearly 12.5% over the last decade, as Law Society figures released earlier today dramatically illustrated the tightening job market for wannabe solicitors.

There were 5,001 contracts on offer in 2013-14, according to the society’s annual statistical report, a drop of 5.6% on the previous year and about 12.4% on the 2003-04 figure of 5,708.

City dominance

More than a third of the contracts currently on the market are at large corporate or City law firms. Searching for a training contract outside London at a high street firm will present students with an almost impossible challenge in some parts of the country.

The pool of trainee solicitors has continued its feminisation, with the number of women trainees at law firms 9 percentage points above that of their male counterparts.

According to the figures, about 36% of all training contracts were offered in the City, with another nearly 19% provided throughout the rest of the capital.

The best chances of bagging a provincial training contract came in the north-west, where slightly more than 11% of all training contracts were available. That was followed by the south-east on 7%.

Trainee deserts

The north-east was the driest of training contract deserts, providing only marginally more than 2% of those available throughout England and Wales.

But that region was followed closely by Wales, with only 2.6% of available training contracts and the East Midlands with only 3%.

Private practice law firms continued to be far and away the main providers of solicitor training, as they accounted for slightly more than 93% of contracts. In-house legal departments at corporations offered 3.7% of contracts, while local and central government produced 1.5% and 0.7%, respectively.

Women are increasingly dominating the law firm trainee demographic.

The figures show that 58% of the total trainee solicitor pool last year were women, of whom 56% were in private practice. In contrast, of the 42% of trainees that were men across England and Wales, 37% were at law firms.