If you're considering a career in Law, but don’t fancy years of higher education and thousands of pounds of student debt, an apprenticeship in Law could be the right path for you. Here's everything you need to know about legal apprenticeships:
Apprenticeships in Law are designed for students who want to enter the legal profession without following the traditional degree path. Apprentices split their time between working for a law firm and studying legal practice part-time at a university or college. Tuition is completely free and apprentices earn a salary while they work.
What does a legal apprenticeship lead to?
Legal apprenticeships have been around for many years, but they used to be set at levels below full qualification.
Now, these old apprenticeships have be replaced with three new Law apprenticeships, known as ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeships. These were developed by leading law firms and the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority), with the mission of improving the quality of training and changing the qualifications that apprentices leave with.
This means it is now possible to qualify as a solicitor, paralegal or chartered legal executive by completing an apprenticeship in Law.
Here’s some information on the three different types of apprenticeships in Law:
1. Solicitor apprenticeship
- Length: six to seven years
- Level: post A-Level; apprentices leave with both a Law degree and an LLM (Master’s Law degree).
- Content: apprentices study all of the main content in a law degree and the LPC (the Legal Practice Course - usually taken after a Law degree), whilst undertaking practical duties similar to that of a paralegal during their law firm placements.
- Eventual destination: a solicitor is a legal professional qualified to deal with conveyancing, the drawing up of wills, and other legal matters. A solicitor may also instruct barristers and represent clients in some courts.
2. Paralegal apprenticeship
- Length: two years
- Level: these apprenticeships can be entered at either Advanced or Higher Level (dependent on whether you have already completed A Levels or an equivalent qualification.)
- Content: through a combination of paid, on-the-job training and tuition, paralegal apprentices develop the necessary legal and business skills to work in the administrative sector of a law firm.
- Eventual destination: paralegals work in the practical and procedural side of the profession, assisting lawyers with their work. The duties of a paralegal may include preparing briefing notes or case documentation, transcribing depositions and statements or attending court proceedings. After completing the Paralegal apprenticeship, students can go straight into the second year of the Chartered Legal Executive apprenticeship if they want to continue with their training.
3. Chartered Legal Executive apprenticeship
- Length: five years
- Level: this course is not recommended to school leavers or those who have never worked in the legal profession before - in this case, you should start by doing the Paralegal apprenticeship. Apprentices leave with a Level 6 qualification as a Chartered Legal Executive
- Content: the course is built up of different modules, covering the most common areas that Legal Executives deal with, including civil and criminal litigation, conveyancing, corporate law, family law and public law. Just like Solicitor apprentices, Legal Executive apprentices undertake administrative paralegal duties during their law firm placements.
- Eventual destination: a chartered legal executive is a qualified lawyer who specialises as an expert in one or two particular areas of the law (whereas solicitors have a broader, more general legal training.)
What are the advantages of a Law apprenticeship?
- Earn while you learn. Law apprenticeships are completely free, so apprentices will avoid the usual tuition fee debt that a law degree will incur. In addition, apprentices are paid a salary for their work at a law firm. So Law apprentices will finish their training with less debt and more earnings!
- No two-year contract. Students who qualify through a degree must find a two-year placement at a law firm to complete their solicitor training, and these are notoriously competitive to come by. In contrast, after completing the apprenticeship and passing the SRA’s assessment tests, an apprentice qualifies as a solicitor without the need for a two year training contract.
- The chance to network. An apprentice will have a head start on a graduate in terms of networking and making contacts in the legal sphere. In fact, many law firms offer apprenticeships which lead straight into jobs.
How else does a Law apprenticeship differ from a Law degree?
- You can’t become a barrister. There is currently no apprenticeship route to becoming a barrister, whereas Law graduates have the option to specialise either as a solicitor or barrister after completing their degree.
- Length. A Law degree and LPC takes four years if you follow the traditional degree path, whereas a solicitor apprenticeship lasts at least six years. However, graduate solicitors must still complete a two-year work placement at a law firm after their training, so in the end they become fully qualified at the same time.
How much will I be paid?
The minimum wage for apprenticeships is £4.30 per hour, but earnings for legal apprentices are usually much higher. In fact, the average salary for legal apprenticeships is £25,063 per year, the fourth highest for any apprenticeship course in the UK.
If you do the full six-year legal apprenticeship, you’ll become a qualified solicitor and receive the same salary as someone who has qualified by the degree route. (A newly-qualified solicitor can expect to earn anything from £25,000 to £40,000 a year.)
How do I apply?
Using Unifrog’s Apprenticeships tool, you can create a shortlist of potential apprenticeship programmes. From there, you can read about each organisation, the salary on offer, the entry requirements, and the course content. Click the green ‘Apply’ button next to each entry in your shortlist to go through to the organisation’s website.
The recommended academic entry requirements for the six-year-long solicitor apprenticeship are a minimum of five GCSEs at grades 9-4 and three A-levels at grade C. However, certain firms require higher grades. For example, applicants for the solicitor apprenticeship at Dentons law firm need to have seven GCSEs at grade 6 or above (including Maths and English) and ABB at A Level.
Law firms will also often look for candidates who have shown a prior interest in the legal profession by completing work experience or following cases in the news.