The TSG represents the interests of law students as well as offering a helping hand.

The Trainee Solicitors Group represents CPE and LPC students, trainees and first-year newly qualified solicitors, all of whom are automatic members. The group is an affiliate of the Law Society and obtains its income from a society grant and sponsorship. The TSG is also represented on various Law Society committees.

The group's decision-making body is the National Committee which is made up of representatives from about 35 local groups. The committee elects an executive which is responsible for running the group and holds office for 12 months from each November. Local groups differ but generally organise social educational and sporting events.

The TSG's main aims are to ensure:

a continual improvement in the quality of legal training, recruitment and working practices;

a fairer distribution of the financial burden of legal training between trainee, legal employers and the state;

equal access to the solicitors' profession regardless of sex, race, disability, age and sexual orientation; and

the development of links with other trainee lawyers and young lawyers throughout Europe and worldwide.

The TSG runs a helpline which offers advice and support to trainees. Insufficient finances to undertake the LPC; harassment at work; lack of supervision; summary dismissal; servicing debts on low pay: coping with the effects of practice mergers – this is a snapshot of the types of calls handled by helpline volunteers and illustrates the hardship suffered by some would-be trainees and aspiring solicitors.

The helpline is a confidential advice service operated by TSG members on all aspects of becoming a solicitor. Volunteers' details are lodged with the Law Society, which directs callers according to the individual volunteer's specialism. The majority of enquiries are for one-off pieces of information but the type of queries mentioned above are all too common.

The value of the service cannot be overstated. At a time when law students and trainees face huge obstacles to entering the profession it is vital that practical advice is available on a confidential basis.

The helpline is useful in other ways as well. One of the TSG's roles is to campaign on behalf of its members and the information gained from the helpline assists the group in identifying the areas where action is most needed.

If you have a question about how to qualify as a solicitor or are experiencing problems during your training contract then call one of the volunteers (see contacts box below). And please think seriously about becoming a volunteer. Qualifications in therapy are not required; the TSG is looking for people who are simply prepared to listen and give common sense advice – something which, as lawyers, we are required to do every day.