Information regarding the application and assessment process for the legal trainee scheme
To join us as a trainee solicitor or pupil barrister you will need to:
- Meet all elements of our eligibility criteria
- Meet the required standard in 3 online application tests
- Meet the required standard and be amongst the highest scoring candidates at our assessment centre
Note the timetable and the recruitment arrangements are kept under review and maybe subject to change.
The next legal trainee scheme will open in July 2019. To be notified as soon as the scheme is open, you can add your contact details to our mailing list.
You must ensure that you meet all the eligibility criteria listed below. Our application form will ask you to demonstrate that this is the case.
You must meet all aspects of the civil service nationality rules to be eligible to apply for graduate or qualified lawyer posts.
Applications are accepted from:
- British citizen
- European Economic Area (EEA)
- Commonwealth citizen
- Swiss national
- Turkish national, in some circumstances
If you have dual nationality, with one part being British, you may apply.
In addition to meeting these nationality requirements, you must have the right to work in the United Kingdom (UK).
If you are a national from a country outside the EEA or Switzerland, you may need a visa to work in the UK. You can check whether you need a UK visa on the UK Visas and Immigration website.
You must have, or be predicted to obtain, a minimum of a 2:2 in an undergraduate degree. This does not have to be in law.
If you hold a Certificate of Academic Standing from the Bar Standards Board (BSB) or have satisfied the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) academic stage requirements via ‘equivalent means’, you will be eligible to apply.
If you are a Fellow or Graduate Member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) who has satisfied the academic stage requirements of the SRA or the BSB through study or exemptions you will be eligible to apply.
Before joining us in September 2021, you must also have successfully completed the following courses;
- the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) if you are studying a non-law degree and
- the Legal Practice Course (LPC) if you wish to join as a trainee solicitor or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) if you wish to join as a pupil barrister
You will not be asked to provide details of your GCSE and A-level results.
We accept applications from candidates with overseas degrees, provided that they can supply evidence that their degree is equivalent to the minimum requirement of a 2:2 in an UK undergraduate degree.
The onus (including any costs) of providing appropriate documentation is on the candidate. The National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) provides information about the comparability of different international qualifications.
We would normally ask for evidence when candidates are completing the online application form and situational judgement test.
We recruit 2 years in advance. This means that after applying to us in July 2019, you have a maximum of 2 years to complete your undergraduate degree and any postgraduate courses such as the GDL, LPC or BPTC.
- If you are currently studying for a law degree, you cannot apply any earlier than the penultimate year of your degree
- If you are currently studying for a non-law degree or are a Scots law student, you cannot apply any earlier than your final year of study
If you have already graduated, you are eligible to apply. We welcome applications from people who graduated some time ago as well as those newly graduating.
If you applied in previous years and met all the eligibility requirements, you can apply again.
What we look for
Factors such as the school you attended, the A levels you obtained, your university and degree subject do not form part of our decision-making process.
In fact, the only time that we see any personal information about you is at the assessment centre stage and this is limited to your name and any work experience.
This approach has delivered positive results. In the 2018 Legal Trainee Scheme, the 76 successful candidates came from 34 different universities.
The type of skills and behaviours we are looking for and how we test them are below.
Previously there has been three parts to the application stage:
An online application form and a situational judgement test
A verbal reasoning test
A critical reasoning test
Situational judgement test (SJT)
The SJT assesses your judgement in dealing with the types of situations you may encounter as a legal trainee. You will need to submit your completed SJT along with your application form. The test is not timed.
You will be given 15 hypothetical situations and a list of possible reactions to each situation. You will be asked to indicate which reaction you think would be the most effective response to the situation and which reaction you think would be the least effective.
If you obtain the pass mark for the SJT, we will invite you to complete the Verbal Reasoning Test.
Verbal reasoning test (VRT)
Our legal trainees need to be able to analyse and interpret complex information. The VRT provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate your ability in this important area.
The VRT is conducted online and is timed. You will be given 19 minutes to complete the test.
During the test, you will read a number of passages of text followed by statements based on the information given in the passage. You will be asked to indicate whether the statements are true or false, or whether it is not possible to say so either way.
Examples of practice verbal reasoning tests are provided on the SHL Direct website.
If you obtain the pass mark for the VRT, we will invite you to complete the Critical Reasoning Test.
Critical reasoning test (CRT)
The CRT assesses your ability to logically analyse assumptions, arguments, deductions, inferences and interpret information.
This test is conducted online and is timed. You will be given 30 minutes to complete the test.
During the test, you will be provided with passages of text. The text will be followed by statements based on the information you have been given.
If you obtain the pass mark in the CRT and are amongst the highest scoring candidates, we will invite you to attend an assessment centre.
At the half-day assessment centre (in London and Leeds) you will sit a written exercise and take part in an interview.
If you are invited to the assessment centre, the Recruitment Team will email you asking you to book your preferred date, so you should book your place as soon as possible.
The assessment centres will only run on the dates published. No further dates will be made available. If you cannot make any of the dates then, unfortunately, your application will be withdrawn from the recruitment process.
We will provide you with our information pack about the assessment centre, which will help you to prepare for this stage of the process. You will also be given the opportunity to indicate your preferred department and start date which will be considered (but not guaranteed) by the Final Selection Board.
You will have 60 minutes to complete the written exercise.
The exercise is not a test of legal knowledge and is designed with non-law students in mind. You will be given a practical, legally-based problem which you will be asked to analyse and then address a number of questions. You will be asked to assume that you are writing to a senior colleague who has asked for your advice. We will provide you with the necessary information about the law to which you need to refer in order to provide your advice.
The interview provides you with a further opportunity to demonstrate evidence of the skills and behaviours listed in the person specification. It will last for 70 minutes.
Your interview panel will comprise two senior government lawyers and an independent chairperson.
At the beginning of the interview, the panel will spend up to 15 minutes questioning you on your response to the written exercise. Following this, the interview panel will ask you a number questions that will assess the skills, behaviours and motivation required for the role.
Candidates with a disability
We believe that all eligible people must have equality of opportunity for employment and advancement on the basis of their suitability for the work.
The Equality Act 2010 requires us to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled people, defined by the Act as those who have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
We will not make assumptions about whether a disabled person requires any adjustments or about what those adjustments should be. We will discuss and agree with the individual in question the reasonable adjustments required.
If you are a disabled person as defined by the Equality Act 2010, then you should notify the Recruitment Team in the application form (which must be submitted by the stated deadline) of any reasonable adjustments which you would like (e.g. additional time for the timed online tests and any adjustments at the assessment centre).
If you require a reasonable adjustment to complete your application form and/or situational judgement test you will need to contact the Recruitment Team as soon as possible.
If you would find it helpful to discuss your requirements, please contact the Recruitment Team.
Any information given in support of your request will be treated in confidence and withheld from those involved in selection based decisions.
We will record and monitor the reasonable adjustments that have been requested and made. This will help us identify whether there are any wider steps that we can take to support those applying to us with a disability.
Guaranteed interview scheme (GIS)
Departments recruiting under the legal trainee scheme process have signed up to the ‘Positive about Disabled People Commitment’. If you consider yourself to have a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010 and are applying under the terms of the GIS, we will invite you to attend the assessment centre if you:
- Meet all aspects of the eligibility criteria
- Meet the standard in each of the 3 online tests
Our legal trainee recruitment scheme is underpinned by the principle of selection for appointment on merit on the basis of fair and open competition as outlined in the Civil Service Commission’s Recruitment Principles.
We aim to provide the best possible service to applicants for to the Legal Trainee Scheme. If you are not satisfied with any aspect of the service you receive at any point during the recruitment process, please inform the Recruitment Team who will deal with your concerns as quickly as possible.
If you do not feel that your application has been treated in accordance with the Commission’s Recruitment Principles (of appointment on merit on the basis of fair and open competition) and you wish to make a complaint, please contact Portia Gumbs in the Government Legal Department at One Kemble Street, London WC2B 4TS in the first instance. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive, you may then wish to contact the Civil Service Commission. Please submit any complaint in writing.
Civil Service Code
As civil servants, legal trainees will be appointed on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and will be expected to carry out their role with dedication and a commitment to the Civil Service and its core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality:
- ‘integrity’ is putting the obligations of public service above your own personal interests
- ‘honesty’ is being truthful and open
- ‘objectivity’ is basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence
- ‘impartiality’ is acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving equally well governments of different political persuasions
Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)
From September 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) plan to introduce the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – an alternative route to qualification.
We will update the website with further information once the SRA has confirmed the arrangements and process.
In the meantime, you should apply for the legal trainee scheme as normal.
If you have qualified as a lawyer outside of England and Wales and are seeking to join in order to become an English qualified lawyer, you may not be required to complete a pupillage or training contract. Instead you may be able to re-qualify under the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme.
Professional bodies’ requirements
If you are successful in obtaining a training contract or pupillage, please ensure that you understand the requirements placed on you by the professional bodies i.e. the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Bar Standards Board (BSB)
For example, as a trainee solicitor you must ensure, before starting your training contract, that you meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements. If you identify any potential issues in terms of being able to meet these requirements, e.g. a criminal conviction, you must notify the SRA as soon as possible and at least 6 months before your training starts by completing and submitting to the SRA an eligibility form which is available on their website.