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Trainee numbers hit 15-year high

29 May 2024 / law society Print

Trainee numbers hit 15-year high

Trainee intake hit a 15-year high at year-end 2023. However, a cause for concern is that 13 counties have either zero or just one trainee, writes Mark Garrett

Trainee solicitor admissions in Ireland nudged to a 15-year high at year-end 2023 with an intake of 561 trainees, as revealed in the Law Society’s Annual Report on Admission Policies of Legal Professions 2023.

The continuing strength of admission numbers is timely, given that the sector has been grappling with attracting and retaining skilled professionals for some time.

Law firms have been struggling with recruitment and retention issues, exacerbated by escalating salary inflation, as highlighted in the 2022 survey of law firms conducted by Evelyn Partners.

The report warns, however, that economic uncertainties that have continued into 2024 could potentially lead to price hikes in the future for consumers in order to offset rising operational costs.

Pivotal gateway

The report spotlights the pivotal gateway to the legal profession in Ireland – the Law Society’s entrance examination, known as the Final Examination – First Part (FE1) – a rigorous assessment that comprises eight papers covering core legal subjects.

The FE1 ensures a uniform standard of knowledge among trainee solicitors, irrespective of their academic background, whether coming from the arts, humanities, engineering, or science.

In 2023, a total of 413 undergraduates undertook the FE1s under the ‘accelerated access’ scheme initiated in 2020. The scheme aims to attract aspiring solicitors from many walks of life.

The statistics reveal a nuanced breakdown of candidates from various universities and academic programmes and highlights the evolving landscape of legal education and recruitment.

Paradigm shift

Meanwhile, the revamped solicitors’ education model rolled out by the Law Society in 2023 marks a paradigm shift in professional legal training, heralding the most extensive overhaul since 2002.

The introduction of the ‘fused’ Professional Practice Course (PPC) has streamlined the training process, integrating all taught elements into a single academic year, thus providing significant logistical and practical advantages to trainees and firms.

The core curriculum on the full-time PPC course runs from September to April each year and includes a continued focus on such skills as negotiation, research, drafting, advocacy, interviewing and advising, and presentation skills, together with an enhanced focus on more general skills such as leadership, project management, office and legal technology, and financial skills.






452 (81%)


35 (8%)


















































Professional responsibility – including enhanced coverage of legal ethics, solicitors’ accounts and rules of professional conduct, and law-firm life – also forms an integral part of the core curriculum.

This is in addition to courses such as business law, dispute resolution, land law, probate, family law, and taxation. The psychology of a lawyer and legal-practice Irish continue to be part of the core curriculum.

Fused Hybrid PPC

The first ‘fused’ Hybrid PPC was introduced in December 2022, with 91 trainees on the programme.

The PPC Hybrid makes greater use of best practice in online learning, doing away with the need to relocate to Dublin for an extended period. It also permits trainees to stay in full-time employment during the delivery of the PPC.

As such, it was deliberately structured in order to meet the Law Society’s priorities for diversity and inclusion, making training more accessible for mature trainees and those with family and other caring commitments.

The second batch of participants are now taking part in the fulltime and Hybrid PPC 2023.

Easy access

However, despite commendable strides in fostering inclusivity, challenges persist, particularly in relation to financial accessibility.

The Law Society’s Access Scholarship Programme, operational since 2001, endeavours to alleviate the impact of socio-economic barriers that can hinder access to certain students to the solicitors’ profession. The programme contributes to the Law Society’s goal of encouraging diversity among trainee solicitors and qualified solicitors in Ireland.

The access programme provides financial support towards the cost of the FE1 examination, indenture registration fee, PPC fees, and the enrolment fee. This programme also pays the fees and provides maintenance for students from a background of socio-economic disadvantage.

Each year, the Law Society receives approximately 85 applications to join the scheme. Over the past three years, approximately 80% of applicants have been successful in joining the scheme, which is open for applications from everyone, regardless of age.

But accessibility suffers from other systemic hurdles outside of the Law Society’s control, including the stringent eligibility criteria imposed by the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant scheme.

The constrictive guidelines disqualify trainee solicitors from receiving assistance from the Law Society, exacerbating financial strains for candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The impending reform of grant legislation offers a glimmer of hope, though this is tempered by ongoing uncertainties about revisions to the eligibility criteria.

Legal ecosystem

In addition, the plight of non-EEA students navigating visa constraints underscores the importance of streamlined immigration policies to assist with their seamless integration into Ireland’s legal ecosystem.

In tandem with its commitment to fostering inclusivity, the Law Society spearheads an array of outreach initiatives aimed at demystifying legal careers and empowering aspiring solicitors.

These include the Street Law programme, which harnesses the expertise of trainee solicitors to deliver legal literacy workshops in local schools and community settings, providing them with an understanding of legal principles.

Separately, over 18,000 transition-year students have taken part in the TY Law Module and ‘Solicitors of the Future’ programmes. These provide students with the opportunity to explore a future career as a solicitor and learn how the law is relevant to their daily lives.

This multifaceted approach by the Law Society helps to demystify legal careers and foster a more inclusive legal landscape, helping to lay the foundations for a more equitable and resilient legal profession in the near future.

Mark Garrett is Director General of the Law Society of Ireland


  • The Law Society recorded an intake of 561 new trainees in 2023,
  • 467 trainees enrolled in the full-time PPC course, which began on 5 September 2023,
  • 94 trainees enrolled in the 2023 PPC Hybrid fused course that started on 13 December 2023,
  • There are currently 189 trainees participating in the Access Scholarship Programme,
  • 111 individuals are currently pursuing FE1 exams and receiving financial support from the Law Society,
  • 78 individuals are at post FE1 level and receiving financial support on the full-time and Hybrid PPC,
  • Of the individuals at post FE1 level, 34 joined the PPC fused courses in 2023 with access programme funding,
  • In addition, 214 individuals have qualified as solicitors with financial support from the Access Scholarship Programme.
Mark Garrett
Mark Garrett is Director General of the Law Society of Ireland