International students: 5 things you should consider when applying for a training contract

Canadian trainee Alyssa Haggarty shares a few tips on the application process and securing a place.

11 January 2019
Visa in passport

Competition for training contract positions is fierce. International applicants who require permission to work in the UK face the additional pressure of securing a place with a firm who is willing to sponsor their visa.

Canadian trainee Alyssa Haggarty shares a few tips on the application process.

1. There are many different routes into law

There are several different routes to qualification as a solicitor in the UK. It’s worth researching all of them to find the best fit for you.

The traditional route is to study law as an undergraduate, complete a one year vocational course called the Legal Practice Course (the 'LPC') and then secure a training contract. 

But studying law is not required. Unlike many other countries, the UK allows students who have studied a non-law subject to complete a one year conversion course called the Graduate Diploma in Law (the 'GDL') before going on to complete the LPC. If you have already completed an undergraduate degree in your home country (or if your law degree from your home country is not a qualifying UK law degree), this option could enable you to avoid the added time and expense of completing an additional qualifying law degree.

You can study the GDL or LPC on a full-time or part-time basis, or even opt for an accelerated course.

There are even further routes into law, for example the CILEX programme or the Apprenticeship Programme at Burges Salmon.

2. Target the right firms

If you require permission to work in the UK in the form of a visa, maximise your chances of success by researching and targeting firms that offer training contract places and visa sponsorship to international applicants.

Not all firms are willing to act as a sponsor for their trainees. Burges Salmon sponsored my Tier-4 visa application, as well as my LPC fees and provided me with a maintenance grant for my period of study. The firm also covered my Tier-2 visa application when I began my training contract.

3. Embrace what makes you different

International applicants are often anxious about their prospects of securing a training contract in the UK. The application process can feel like an uphill battle because they are more expensive and administratively complicated than applicants that do not require permission to work in the UK.

Burges Salmon employs trainees and qualified lawyers from across the globe, many of whom require visa sponsorship in order to work in the UK.

The key is to highlight what makes you different from other applicants and emphasize how this makes you an asset to the firm. Being international is your USP. International applicants bring unique skills to the table: a global perspective, language skills, experience living and travelling abroad and the ability to adapt to different situations. These skills will be valued by firms with international clients and a global reach.

4. Put your achievements into context

If you were not educated in the UK, try and place your achievements into context by providing an equivalent UK grade. If conversion isn’t possible, provide information about the grading system and where your grade falls within that range.

5. Be persistent

Securing a training contract position is difficult, and many people are not successful on their first try (I sure wasn’t!). Learn from your failures and be persistent.

If you have any questions, please contact Anna Dixon.

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