Aspiring solicitors have more than one qualification route available to them. The traditional route involves studying a law degree (or a non-law degree followed by a conversion course known as a GDL) and then completing a Legal Practice Course (LPC). Solicitor apprenticeships, however, offer an alternative pathway. Read on to discover more about this way of qualifying as a solicitor.
What Is a Solicitor Apprenticeship?
Solicitor apprenticeships have been developed by the government to make legal careers more accessible. A level seven qualification that takes around six years to complete, a solicitor apprenticeship incorporates academic studies with practical learning through work experience at a firm. It is a cheaper alternative to a university degree as it is fully funded by a law firm (or subsidised by the government).
While they are normally undertaken by students upon completion of their A-Levels, it can also be an option for those considering a career change. As such, there are several options to accelerate the programme depending on your experience and education levels.
Who Is Eligible?
Solicitor apprenticeships are available to anyone who has completed their A-Level examinations. This offers great flexibility because you can choose to embark on a solicitor apprenticeship after sixth form instead of a university degree or later in your professional career. Different firms will have their own entry requirements. Nevertheless, aspiring solicitors are expected to have at least:
Five GCSEs at Grade C/4 or above (including Maths and English)
Three A-Levels at Grade C or above (although most firms require at least a Grade B)
Watch our Q&A with Maia Crockford, a solicitor apprentice at an international law firm.
Where Can You Do a Solicitor Apprenticeship?
Law firms that offer solicitor apprenticeships will cover the cost of your studies at law school of their choice and offer paid, on-the-job training. There are several firms in the United Kingdom which offer this scheme:
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Charles Russell Speechlys
Womble Bond Dickinson
What Is the Structure of a Solicitor Apprenticeship?
A solicitor apprenticeship involves spending 80% of your week at a law firm gaining practical exposure to the field and the remaining 20% studying and completing academic coursework.
Working at the firm can involve tasks such as researching cases for colleagues and clients, drafting and reviewing legal documents, advising and supporting clients; attending meetings and interviews and managing legal transactions. This will not only offer valuable insight into professional business environments but also a first-hand understanding of the work required of solicitors.
Your firm will partner with a law school such as the University of Law, BPP University of Law or the CILEx Law School to provide the academic portion of your apprenticeship. This will cover content from a regular LLB degree and the LPC. While modules will vary across academic providers, students can expect to cover and be assessed in topics such as contract, criminal, tort and EU laws, amongst many others.
Depending on the particular institution, solicitor apprentices can receive a range of qualifications such as LLB (Hons), LLB in Legal Practice, LLB Hons Law in Legal Practice and Skills. As of next year, they will also need to sit both parts of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) to qualify.
How Much Do Solicitor Apprentices Earn?
Solicitor apprentice salaries are dependent on the firms that employ them. All apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage. As of April 2020, apprentices aged under 19 or 19 or over in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to £4.15 per hour.
Apprentices who have completed the first year of their apprenticeship and are 19 years or older are entitled to the minimum wage for their age. It’s worth noting, however, that many employers pay more than the National Minimum Wage.