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time to count and qualification

22 January 2014

Legal experience gained outside of a training contract may be recognised as time to count reducing the duration of your training contract. The maximum reduction allowed is 6 months. Recognising time to count is entirely at your firm’s discretion.

I had previously worked at Browne Jacobson as a legal assistant and had also obtained legal experience at two other firms. I was therefore in a position to pursue a time to count application. Making the decision to qualify early, however, is not an easy one and may not be the right decision for everyone. In reality, when will you get the chance to be a trainee again?

Reducing your training contract by one seat means that you will miss out on experiencing another area of law and further building on the skills that will equip you as an NQ. Furthermore, second year trainees at Browne Jacobson typically get to pick their seats ahead of the first years so missing out your fourth seat means that you miss the chance of getting a seat you have been wanting to do when chances of getting it are higher (particularly if others are qualifying early). So, why rush into the world of NQ targets and billing?

For me, I felt ready to qualify. Having obtained a few years experience in litigation, I felt certain that contentious work was for me. I had really enjoyed my first seat in the health team (despite not having picked to go there!) and had found the opportunity to learn about medicine and medical ethics fascinating. During my third seat, I had been asked to take part in a secondment for the health team and this solidified that health was the area for me. Since the health team had indicated that they were recruiting and there would be a position in March, after a lot of thought I decided to apply to qualify early. I’d found my direction and I didn’t wish to risk doing another seat and potentially missing out on a position.

Six months is not a long time and I believe that if you have any doubts, whatsoever, about where you want to qualify then doing another seat would be the best option. After all, this decision will potentially affect the rest of your working life! The good news for those completing a full training contract are that there are often more jobs to choose from in September.

Having had a successful interview, I am now ensuring that all my paperwork is completed in time and hope to qualify on 3 March. This aspect is something that trainees should be looking into around 3 months ahead of qualification. You will need to complete a time to count application (where qualifying early), a DBS check (which can take 8 weeks) and form AD1 for admittance (which needs to be with the SRA 1 month prior to your admission date). HR and the training principal will, of course, provide assistance with this process.