The Government Legal Service (or GLS as it is more popularly referred to) is the organisational name for approximately 2,000 lawyers employed in 30 central government departments.
The GLS is a unique legal practice in the sense that it has only one client—but that client is the government of the day. Whether the government is creating new legislation, buying goods and services, employing people or defending its decisions in court, it needs significant levels of legal advice. To carry out this work, the government needs its own lawyers who understand its business.
GLS lawyers work not only with other lawyers but also as part of a wider team including policy makers and professionals from other specialist areas. They are involved in making the law as well as in interpreting it.
The work is complex, novel, politically sensitive and frequently in the public eye. The diversity of the GLS’ legal work reflects the wide range of activities within government. These range across issues of national and international significance and across public and private law, embracing advisory and legislative work, litigation and prosecution and a wealth of specialist areas. There is often considerable overlap between categories of work. A case before the UK courts, for example, might require lawyers to advise on public law issues, on European Union (EU) and human rights law and on changes needed to primary or secondary legislation.
The GLS offers training contracts and pupillages on its ‘Legal Trainee Scheme’. Opportunities are usually available within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Government Legal Department (GLD) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Over a two year training contract, trainee solicitors spend six months each in four seats, with a compulsory seat each in litigation and an advisory practice. Work and on-the-job training depends upon the GLS department to which trainees are allocated for their training contract but, generally speaking, will cover the basic essentials of research, drafting, negotiating, advocacy and advisory services.
The structure of GLS pupillages will also vary according to the department. In most, pupils will either spend the first six months, or middle four months, in an external set of barristers chambers and the remainder with their departmental legal team. Pupils will be involved in the wide range of work in which their department and Chambers are involved. You will also get to attend court (with a supervisor), carry out research for other lawyers and draft opinions.
Formal training for all trainees includes a detailed induction into the GLS, training modules on administrative, civil and criminal law, EU laws, human rights and legislation, general management and professional skills and in certain instances, external training programmes for external qualifications, language training and any other relevant subjects.
All training positions are based in London, across various government offices in Whitehall, Westminster and Holborn.
Internships & Placements
Although there isn’t currently a central GLS vacation placement scheme, some GLS departments do offer placements as part of their own departmental arrangements. For example, the Government Legal Department offers approximately 15 placements each year. Placements will involve working alongside other lawyers and trainees in casework, liaising with clients, observing hearings and attending talks. The GLS doesn’t use vacation placements as an opportunity to assess students’ potential for training contracts and pupillages. This means that those who make a successful application for a placement will need to apply for trainee opportunities as part of the general application process.
Applications for the 2016 GLS vacation scheme are expected to open in April 2015. Details will be available on the GLD website.
There are no apprenticeships offered by the Government Legal Service
School Leaver Programmes
Salary & Benefits
First year legal trainees receive a salary between £23,900 and £24,600. In the second year of a training contract, trainee salaries will be in the range of £25,300 and £26,500.
The GLS will also pay your LPC or BPTC fees in full, if you have not started the course. If you have already started the course, most departments will make a proportional payment based on the time remaining. Unfortunately, the GLS cannot reimburse you if you have already successfully completed your LPC or BPTC.
If you study for the LPC or BPTC on a full-time basis, you may be eligible for a grant between £5,400 and £7,600 for the vocational year. If you application is successful, you’ll need to discuss grant provision with the department to which you are allocated.
Benefits also include annual holidays of 25 days, Civil Service pension scheme, the Civil Service Healthcare scheme, membership of the Civil Service Sports and Social Club at low membership fees and full-service staff restaurants and catering facilities.
Applicants must have or be predicted a minimum 2:2 in an undergraduate degree. You will also be eligible if you hold a Certificate of Academic Standing from the Bar Standards Board or Solicitors Regulation Authority. Fellows of CILEx who have satisfied at the SRA’s academic stage will also be eligible.This does not have to be in law. You will also need to have completed a GDL (if required), LPC or BPTC before starting training in September 2015, 2016 or 2017.
The GLS look for applicants to be able to make effective decisions, leadership and communication skills, the ability to work as part of a team that have a motivation to work hard and progress in their training and career.
How To Apply
There are four parts of the GLS’ training contract application.
Stage one is an online application form and online Situation Judgement Test, presenting applicants with situations you could deal with during your contract and seeing what response they believe would be most effective.
If you are successful in the first stage of your application, you will be asked to complete an online Verbal Reasoning Test. Applicants will read passages of text and then will have to indicate which presented states are true or false or not possible to say.
If you are successful in stage two also, you will be asked to complete an online Critical Reasoning Test, which assesses your ability to logically analyse assumptions, arguments, deductions, inferences and interpret information. You will be provided with a statement and you will have to say how true that statement is based on the information given.
If you pass all three of these tests, you will be invited to the GLS Assessment Centre. During your half-day visit, you will undertake a written exercise and an interview.