If you’re thinking about a law career but university isn’t up your street and/or the thought of exorbitant tuition fees makes you feel slightly nauseous, there is an answer, law apprenticeships!
This page aims to introduce you to the new and innovative ‘Trailblazer’ law apprenticeships in terms of what they involve and how you can kick start your law career as an apprentice.
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Law Apprenticeships Overview
It’s all change on the law apprenticeship front with the introduction of the brand new ‘Trailblazer’ (otherwise known as ‘Standards’) law apprenticeships which lead to full qualification as either a:
Chartered Legal Executive; or
Launched at the end of 2016, ‘Trailblazer’ law apprenticeships have been developed by a high profile panel of law firms (the ‘Trailblazers’) including Addleshaw Goddard, Browne Jacobson, Burgess Salmon, Clyde & Co, DAC Beachcroft, Dentons, DWF, Gateley, Kennedys, Lewis Silkin, Mayer Brown, Olswang, Pannone, Simmons & Simmons, Stephenson Harwood, Thomas Eggar and Withers.
Input has also been provided by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (the SRA) and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), all of which is part of a Government initiative to:
- Increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities;
- Widen access to the legal profession; and
- Remove the financial barriers of higher education.
As university fees continue to rocket, it is thought that law apprenticeships will become increasingly popular. Even at this very early stage, these Trailblazer law apprenticeships are already starting to gain huge traction.
What are Law Apprenticeships?
Law Apprenticeships offer an alternative route to legal practice which essentially involves ‘learning on the job.’ The different apprenticeships that fall under the scheme include:
- Paralegal Apprenticeship (a two year level 3 apprenticeship)
- Chartered Legal Executive Apprenticeship (a five year level 6 apprenticeship)
- Solicitor Apprenticeship (a six year level 7 apprenticeship)
It is possible to progress from one apprenticeship onto the next. So, for example, following a level 3 paralegal apprenticeship, you could, if you so wish, progress on to the level 6 chartered legal executive apprenticeship or a level 7 solicitor apprenticeship.
Some law firms are currently offering candidates paralegal apprenticeships with the option to progress onto a solicitor or chartered legal executive apprenticeship if they perform suitably well and the vacancies exist.
Apprentices spend the majority of their time working in a law firm (which sponsors them through the entire apprenticeship). At the law firm apprentices work on developing their skills, commercial awareness and legal knowledge in a variety of different areas of the law. This ‘work-based learning’ is blended with part-time legal study. Apprentices will be intermittently ‘released’ to an educational institution (which is partnered with their sponsoring law firm), for around one day a week to learn about more theoretical aspects of the law. Some study may also be carried out online. Either way about 20% of the working week will be taken up by online or offline study of some form.
Who Can Apply for Law Apprenticeships?
Law apprenticeships are open to individuals who have completed A-Levels. So whether you are fresh out of school or considering law apprenticeships later down the line (for example, following degree study) you can apply to become a law apprentice.
Entry requirements are, to a large extent, dictated by the sponsoring law firms. Most firms will expect applicants to have:
- At least 5 GCSEs at grade A-C (including Maths and English), some firms expect as much as 7 GCSEs at grade B or above (including Maths and English)
- 3 A-Levels at grade C and above, some firms expect as much as ABB.
When Can I Apply for Law Apprenticeships?
Candidates should aim to apply during their final year of A-levels or equivalent.
What Sort of Work Do Law Apprenticeships Involve?
As a law apprentice you will be involved in a variety of work for a number of different clients. Daily tasks, over the course of your law apprenticeship are likely to include:
- Drafting correspondence to clients
- Attending client meetings, taking minutes as necessary
- Negotiating and drafting contracts and other legal documents
- Researching and reporting back to supervisors / clients on various aspects of the law
- Preparing for and attending court proceedings
- Proofreading legal documents
- Admin tasks such as document reproduction / management.
As part of your law apprenticeship, you may also be expected to develop and maintain an up-to-date portfolio of your work with examples of tasks you have undertaken such as research and drafting tasks. This portfolio will ultimately be used as evidence of the work you have undertaken and the experience you have gained when it comes to qualification.
What Skills and Attributes Will I Need to be a Successful Law Apprentice?
Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, sums up nicely what is expected of apprenticeship candidates:
“You will need to be resilient, hard working and have the drive and ambition to succeed in a highly demanding work environment.”
Get Law Apprenticeship Advice from Dentons
Candidates will also be expected to be:
- Thorough (with good attention to detail)
In terms of skill set, apprenticeship candidates will be expected to demonstrate that they:
- are a team player
- have excellent communication skills
- are an effective problem solver
- can think and work under pressure
- have good analytical skills
- have a basic understanding of commercial awareness
How Much Will I Get Paid?
How much law apprentices are paid very much depends on the sponsoring law firm. In their first year, apprentices can earn anything between £11,000 and £19,000 plus benefits depending on location and level of apprenticeship. The beauty of this is that it all goes into your back pocket. Unlike university you are not expected to pay anything towards your training and associated study.
What are the Benefits of Law Apprenticeships?
Perceived benefits of law apprenticeships as oppose to the traditional university route to legal practice include:
- Avoiding the escalating costs of university and associated debt
- Developing new skills at an earlier stage
- Building positive relations with a law firm at a very early stage
Do Law Apprenticeships Involve any Formal Examinations?
All of the Trailblazer apprenticeships involve some form of formal examination and assessment. The way in which you are examined will vary depending on which apprenticeship you are undertaking.
Solicitor level 7 apprenticeship exams
You will be expected to take exams and assessments throughout the apprenticeship. You will also be required to pass the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) which is a centralised exam split into 2 parts. To find out more, click on the link – The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
Chartered legal executive level 6 apprenticeship exams
You will be expected to pass CILEx exams at level 3 and 6 as well as submitting an end point case study which meets the CILEx regulations for qualifying employers.
Paralegal level 3 apprenticeship exams
You will be required to submit a portfolio of competence and undertake two timed synoptic exams in Law and Practice and Client Care and Legal Research Skills.
What are the Disadvantages of Law Apprenticeships?
Perceived disadvantages of law apprenticeships over the traditional university route include:
- Missing out on the ‘university experience’
- Narrowing down your options / specialising at a very early stage of life
Ultimately, it is down to each individual to weigh up these pros and cons and formulate their own conclusions on this.
Which Law Firms are Currently Offering Law Apprenticeships?
Take a look at our Law Apprenticeships Deadline Calendar to see which law firms are currently taking on law apprentices. The calendar not only sets out application deadlines but also entry requirements, the type of apprenticeship being offered (solicitor / paralegal etc), salary details and direct links to application forms/ processes).
Step by Step Guide to Becoming a Legal Apprentice
Step 1 – Choosing a Law Firm
Before you start thinking about submitting legal apprenticeship applications, an important first step is to establish where you want to apply.
Given that only a relatively small number of law firms are currently offering law apprenticeships (see our Law Apprenticeships Deadline Calendar for more info on participating firms), base your research around these firms, establishing which ones appeal to you most. Factors you may wish to take into consideration include:
- Whether you wish to apply to traditional law firms or in house legal departments.
- The size and location of prospective law firms
Once you have considered the various factors, you will be in a strong position to compile a focused list of target law firms. Then you can start doing your homework! Research your preferred law firms in detail, considering:
- Their client base
- Any recent high profile deals or cases
- Any influential partners
- Any other facts of particular interest
By carrying out thorough research, you can tailor your applications accordingly and make sure you are applying to firms that are a good fit for you. Remember, law firms are not interested in standard form, generic applications, a commitment to and an understanding of their particular firm and its inner workings is crucial.
Step 2 – Submit Law Apprenticeship Applications
The apprenticeship application process is very similar to the process involved in applying for training contracts. So visit our training contract application page to find out more about how the overall application process works.
Step 3 – Attending Law Apprenticeship Interviews
The apprenticeship interview process is very similar to the process involved in applying for training contracts. So visit our training contract interview page to find out more about how the overall interview process works.
One important thing to note here is that during any interview or assessment process, no legal knowledge on your part will be assumed and you will not be evaluated as an applicant on this basis.
Step 4 – In-House Assessments
If you get through the interview stages you may be invited to an assessment day where you will be expected to complete a variety of tasks which may include:
- A verbal reasoning / critical thinking assessment such as a Watson Glaser Test
- An independent written exercise set by the law firm
- A group task, such as a mock negotiation
Step 5 – Being Made an Offer
If, following the rigorous interview process and any assessment days you have sufficiently impressed the law firm in question, they may offer you an apprenticeship. Most law firms will call you in person to deliver the good news. It is then ultimately down to you as to whether you accept the offer!