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Recent years have seen firms grow increasingly reliant on Paralegals to do much of the fee earning work previously done by Solicitors. Paralegals make up approximately 44% of all fee earners in Solicitors’ firms, and are set to outnumber Solicitors in firms in the next 10 years.

As paralegal roles outnumber training contracts and newly qualified positions, you’re likely wondering how you’ll ever progress to the role of Solicitor. In this blog, we guide you through the application process and what you can do to increase your chance of success.

How to secure a solicitor training contract

Although many Solicitors have worked in Paralegal jobs  to gain the necessary work experience and make their training contract applications successful, there’s no denying that the competition to secure a training contract is fierce.

These steps in the solicitor training contract application process will help you rise above the competition and increase your chance of success:

1. Narrow down and thoroughly research your target employers

Do your research, and only target the firms that you genuinely want to work for. Think about the areas of law you wish to specialise in, whether it be criminal law, commercial law or otherwise. Carefully consider the size of the firm at which you want to work, as well as location. Remember that you will need to be able to explain why you have applied and why you are right for the firm. Read the firm's brochures to get an initial feel for its practice areas and culture and then do further research into the firm online and in the legal press.

You may also want to consider in-house legal departments, local government departments, the magistrates' court service, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Government Legal Service, which are also training contract providers. Be as flexible as possible in terms of where you can work.

2. Be mindful of application deadlines before you apply

Firms will not wait until after the deadline to begin reviewing applications and offering interviews. It is therefore best to start early, spend plenty of time on making a top-notch application and submit well before the deadline. On law careers.net you can check firms' deadlines for training contract applications here.

3. Customise your applications

You cannot get away with copying and pasting the same answers into every application form you complete. Some firms adopt a “personal statement” style application form, and as such require one longer answer explaining why you're suited to that firm. Others you will have several questions that you’ll need to answer. Make sure you think about the culture, ethos and professional capacity of that law firm, and try to get across in your application how your skills and values match the firm’s.

4. Prepare for first and second interviews

If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail! Although you’ve tackled most of the hard work with your application, you still need to demonstrate to employers why you’re the perfect fit for their firm or company. The following tips will help you get started:

  • Remember your aims at the interview stage are to sell yourself and to evaluate the job, to see if you want it.

  • Get to know the job description and person specification.

  • Anticipate situational interview questions along the lines of, "If you were faced with this situation, how would you tackle it?"

  • Be prepared to quote examples of your achievements to back up claims you make about your attributes - make sure that you know everything you wrote on your CV well, because you are bound to be asked about it.

  • If it's a panel interview, find out the names of the panel members so that you can refer to them by name when answering their questions.

  • Prepare questions on matters you need to know about the job title, overall purpose, tasks, responsibilities, your immediate line manager, and methods used for judging your progress.

Read more about how to prepare for an interview

5. Learn from failure

If you do receive a rejection letter, then don’t fret. Lots of people do unfortunately fall at the final hurdle. Understandably, you'll be disappointed, but it’s important to treat this as a learning experience. Try to analyse where you might have gone wrong, ask for feedback, make some notes and when you get another interview, you'll be even better prepared.

Equivalent means route to qualifying as a Solicitor

The ‘equivalent means' route enables a Paralegal who has completed the Legal Practice Course to apply to qualify as a Solicitor without completing a formal training contract or period of recognised training. You will need to provide evidence to the Solicitor Regulation Authority that your legal experience is equivalent to that gained over the course of a training contract. The first paralegals to qualify as solicitors through equivalent means did so in 2015.

Contact Search Legal for more tips and advice on how to qualify as a Solicitor

We get it, the pathway to Solicitor can be a long one and competition is fierce! At Search Legal, we can support you with interview preparation, practice and links to regional and international law firms, as well as commercial businesses. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you progress from Paralegal to Newly Qualified Solicitor.