Apprenticeships Within The Legal Market
6 November 2017
In a field that is becoming more and more competitive, studying at University may no longer be an essential move for those hoping to achieve employment in the legal sector. Mainly aimed at pupils leaving their final year of school, English law firms such as Clyde & Co, Freshfields and Hogan Lovells are offering apprenticeships that lead to qualifications as paralegals, and well-known firms such as Addleshaw Goddard, Mayer Brown and Burges Salmon are now offering full-blown solicitor apprenticeships.
On average, students need five GCSE’s, including maths and English (with grades C or above), and three A-levels also at grade C. Of course, assessments must be completed to a high standard throughout the apprenticeship as well.
The most recent firm to utilise the solicitor apprenticeship, Withers, offers a starting salary of £20,000 and involves work that a trainee solicitor would expect to experience after graduating from University. Firms such as Withers will receive a state subsidy that goes towards the training costs involved. Although this figure may not seem like a huge amount when you consider that the firm is in central London, it certainly wouldn’t be that bad for someone who has just left secondary education.
Bear in mind, while most University students are hampered with the pressure of paying off their student loan, legal apprenticeship students will already have their foot in the door – gaining valuable work experience and earning a modest wage at the same time.
However, it should be noted that the vast majority of schemes are aimed at training people to become paralegals (not solicitors), which could potentially restrict the employability of the people who then decide they want to become a barrister, for example.
However, as a law student myself, I can certainly see the appeal of such programmes. Studying for examinations is an effective way of ensuring that you learn an area of law thoroughly, but the practical, hands-on experience of immersing oneself in the work of a trainee solicitor straight off the bat will undoubtedly have its benefits. I don’t think anyone would argue against me if I said that there’s a succinct difference between learning about the formation of contracts in a class and actually drafting a document, in the real world, on behalf of a client.
However, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons of the scheme when considering whether Scotland should truly start implementing Legal apprenticeships.
University is arguably about much more than just getting that all-important degree. People go to University to meet people from varying backgrounds, but also to essentially ‘grow up’ with people of similar attitudes and outlooks. The jump from school to University is nowhere near as big a leap as school to being a trainee solicitor. Students also get to enjoy long holidays, giving them the chance to explore other areas and widen their opportunities in terms of what career they may want to pursue after graduation.
All in all, only time will tell just how well these legal apprentices will serve the legal community. Statistics revealed in the near future will allow us to ascertain whether the schemes create as well-rounded a legal candidate as universities.
Either way, more firms may very well look at including this route to train their staff in the future, and this could pose a threat to universities, unless they start to utilise them in their law courses themselves.
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Written By Edward Russell