Guidance

Legal trainee scheme: how to apply

Information regarding the application and assessment process for the legal trainee scheme

Introduction

To join us as a trainee solicitor or pupil barrister you will need to:

Mailing List

The next legal trainee scheme (LTS) will open in 2021.

To be notified as soon as the LTS is open, you can add your contact details to our mailing list.

Eligibility

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.

Nationality

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:

If you have dual nationality, with one part being British, you may apply.

Immigration status

In addition to meeting the nationality requirements, you must have the right to work in the United Kingdom. Please note that recruiting departments are unlikely to be able to assist with sponsoring a visa. There are likely to be considerable changes to immigration law depending on the agreement that the UK reaches with the EU. Recruiting departments have to comply with the law on working status at the time employment will start. Further information can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration website.

Academic criteria

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.

You are also eligible to apply if you:

If you are successful in obtaining a trainee position within one of the participating department, you must have successfully completed your undergraduate degree and the following postgraduate courses before joining that department:

  • 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.

Degree stage

  • 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 are currently studying for a law degree, you cannot apply any earlier than the penultimate year of your degree

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.

You will not be asked to provide details of your GCSE and A-level results.

Overseas degrees

We accept applications from candidates with overseas degrees. You must supply evidence that their degree is equivalent to the minimum requirement of a 2:2 in an UK undergraduate degree.

The responsibility (including any costs) of providing appropriate documentation is on the individual. 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.

What we look for

Factors such as the school you attended, A levels and GCSEs results, 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 2019 Legal Trainee Scheme, the 55 successful candidates came from 30 different universities.

The type of skills and behaviours we are looking for and how we test them are below.

2020 Person Specification

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Application stage

There are four parts to the application stage:

  1. An online application form and a situational judgement test

  2. A verbal reasoning test

  3. A critical reasoning test

  4. A video interview

Situational judgement test (SJT)

The SJT assesses your judgement in dealing with the types of situations you may encounter as a legal trainee. If you pass the eligibility criteria in the application form, you will then receive an email inviting you to complete the SJT. The test is not timed.

You will be given 16 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 and least effective response to the situation.

Example of SJT question

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A free practice test can be found on the AssessmentDay website.

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.

Verbal reasoning practice tests are provided on the SHL Direct website.

Another free practice test can be found on the AssessmentDay 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.

Examples of CRT questions

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A free practice test can be found on the Test Partnership website.

If you obtain the pass mark for the CRT, we will invite you to complete a Video Interview.

Video interview

The video interview has been designed to assess candidates’ motivations for the trainee scheme, as well as some of the behaviours which are integral to the role.

During the interview, there will be a number of text-based questions, and a set amount of time to respond to each of those questions.

The interview will last for approximately 20 minutes, and full instructions on how to complete this will be given at the time.

A free practice test can be found on the AssessmentDay website.

If you obtain the pass mark in the video interview and are amongst the highest scoring candidates, we will invite you to attend an assessment centre.

Assessment stage

At the assessment centre you will complete a written exercise and take part in a panel 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 Recruitment Team will also 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.

Written exercise

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.

Interview

The interview typically lasts around 70 minutes. The panel will usually consist of two senior lawyers and an independent chairperson.

The panel will use different types of questioning during the interview, which may require a slightly different approach to answering.

At the beginning of the interview, the panel will spend up to 15 minutes questioning the candidate on their response to the written exercise. This will enable them to expand upon the key points which they have made.

There will be a ‘behaviour-based’ element to the interview because how you would behave in certain situations is one of the best indicators of how you are likely to perform in the role.

The types of behaviours which will result in effective performance in the trainee role are set out in our person specification. These behaviours link to the Civil Service Success Profiles Framework.

The examples the candidate chooses can be from any setting such as work, education, voluntary sector or home life. Ideally they should use a different example for each question as a spread of responses will give the assessors the most comprehensive picture of them.

In their responses to the questions, candidates should try to include each of the following elements:

  • Situation and/or task: briefly describe what the situation/task was
  • Actions: what was it that they did?
  • Result: describe the impact, outcomes or results of the actions they took

Alternatively, candidates may be asked how they would behave in a given situation. The panel members will set out a scenario for them to consider. For example, how they would respond to a heavy workload or manage a sensitive situation.

Strengths Based Questions

There will be some strength based questions. Strength based questions are designed to assess whether the candidate is a good fit for an organisation and role. This is based on what they enjoy doing and what they do well and often. By ensuring the role is the right fit for them, they are more likely to enjoy it and perform well.

A few generic examples of strengths based questions are:

  • “What energises you?”
  • “What are you good at?”
  • ”What would you say are your weaknesses?”

Motivation

Lastly, and unsurprisingly, the panel will focus on motivation for the role. The panel will be looking to understand the candidate’s reasons for applying to the legal trainee scheme. For example through their knowledge of what government lawyers do and their motivation for working within the public sector.

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.

This is defined by the Act as those who have a physical or mental impairment. For example 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 must notify the Recruitment Team in the application form. This must be submitted by the stated deadline. You must include any reasonable adjustments you may need. For example, 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.

Monitoring

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 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, you can apply under the terms of the GIS.

We will invite you to attend the assessment centre if you:

  1. Meet all aspects of the eligibility criteria
  2. Meet the standard in each of the 3 online tests and video interview

Complaints procedure

The legal trainee scheme is underpinned by the principle of selection for appointment on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. This is 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 have received during the process, please contact the Recruitment Team.

If you do not feel that your application has been treated in accordance with the Commission’s Recruitment Principles and wish to make a complaint, please contact Caroline Anerville, Government Legal Department, 102 Petty France, London SW1H 9GL.

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.

Legal trainees 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

The core values are set out in the Civil Service Code.

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.

Overseas lawyers

If you have qualified as a lawyer outside of England and Wales, you may be able to re-qualify under the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme.

Further information is available from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

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 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. This must be a least 6 months before your training starts. You must complete and submit to the SRA an eligibility form which is available on their website.

Published 2 September 2014
Last updated 6 July 2020 + show all updates
  1. Launch of the 2020 Legal Trainee Scheme

  2. launch of the 2019 legal trainee scheme

  3. Launch of the 2018 Legal Trainee Scheme

  4. GLS Legal Trainee Scheme is open for those interested in a training contract or pupillage in government departments such as GLD, HMRC and NCA.

  5. GLS Legal Trainee Scheme open

  6. Announcement of the 2016 GLS Legal Trainee Scheme.

  7. Link to application form removed following deadline

  8. Updated for launch of application process

  9. Updated ahead of 2015 recruitment campaign

  10. Updated to reflect programme for 2015 recruitment campaign

  11. First published.