The Solicitors Regulation Authority has apologised for confusion caused by information it provided on numbers of trainees.
The regulator issued a clarification after becoming aware of information published about trainee solicitor numbers as a result of information the SRA provided in response to a freedom of information request from a training company.
The SRA's reply said 5,541 training contracts were registered in 2014, and 3,415 periods of recognised training were entered into, suggesting that 8,956 trainees had found places.
In fact the total number was 5,514, the regulator said: its response should have made clear that the number of training contracts registered included the periods of recognised training and more up-to-date information showed that the number of training positions registered was 27 fewer than originally counted.
SRA executive director Richard Collins said: ‘We are sorry for any confusion this has caused. We have spoken directly to the training company about this to explain, apologise and correct the position. We are also taking this step to correct the position publicly and hope this clarifies the matter.’
As part of its effort to remove unnecessary red tape, the SRA removed the need for training contracts to be registered from 1 July last year. Training positions registered from 1 July 2014 are deemed to be ‘periods of recognised training’.
Max Harris, chair of the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division, said the confusion appeared to have arisen ‘due to constantly changing SRA terminology’.
‘We have consistently told the regulator their reforms are confusing the legal market, and this is one example where that confusion has been highlighted.’
Harris said the division suspected that the figures - which suggested a staggering increase in the number of trainee solicitors - were incorrect as it had earlier been provided with official SRA figures that showed a year-on-year decrease in the number of training contracts. The SRA said the 2014 figure of 5,514 was 0.04% up on 2013.