Solicitor apprenticeships have been developed by the government to make legal careers more accessible. They offer the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’, usually including undergraduate qualifications, SQE preparation, and assessments required to qualify as a solicitor paid for by the apprenticeship levy.
While solicitor apprenticeships are undertaken mainly by students upon completion of their A-Levels, some employers also offer solicitor apprenticeships to individuals who have already completed some legal training, such as a law degree, the Legal Practice Course or the Trailblazer level 3 paralegal apprenticeship. While these candidates also need to complete all the elements of the SQE, additional experience or education can accelerate the program and it may not take the full 5 – 6 years to complete.
A level 7 solicitor apprenticeship is a six-year apprenticeship aimed at aspiring solicitors who have not completed a law degree, such as A-level students, chartered legal executives and paralegals.
Level 7 solicitor apprenticeships are often referred to as solicitor degree apprenticeships as they enable students to gain an LLB law degree, as well as an LLM Legal Masters.
Once apprentices have completed the solicitor degree apprenticeship and passed the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), apprentices will be qualified as solicitors and able to practice law in England and Wales.
Take a look at the University of Law’s level 7 solicitor apprenticeship.
Graduate apprenticeships are a relatively new and evolving alternative to traditional apprenticeships and offer graduates the opportunity to work while qualifying.
Graduate solicitor apprenticeships are generally available to final students completing their LLB law degree, those or to have a non-law degree and have completed the graduate diploma in law (GDL).
The duration of a solicitor apprenticeship can vary depending on the type of solicitor apprenticeship and any relevant experience or education undertaken prior to the apprenticeship.
Level 7 solicitor apprenticeships tend to take 6 years to complete. However, students who progress from other legal apprenticeships or who have gained other relevant experience may be able to reduce this timeframe.
The majority of graduate solicitor apprenticeships currently being offered have a duration of 2.5 years. However, as graduate solicitor apprenticeships are a more recent development in solicitor qualification, the specifics around their structure are still being developed and it is therefore important to check the websites of individual providers for more information.
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.
As mentioned, being a solicitor apprentice means that 20% of your workload will involve academic study. Your firm will partner with a law school such as the University of Law or the CILEx Law School to provide the academic portion of your apprenticeship.
The academic portion of a solicitor apprenticeship will cover content from a regular LLB degree and the SQE. 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, as well as practical topics such as ethics and administration.
Watch our Q&A with Maia Crockford, a solicitor apprentice at an international law firm.
Since the increase in the popularity of apprenticeships, many law firms have made the decision to offer solicitor apprenticeships. To find out which law firms offer apprenticeship programmes, explore our law firm opportunities.
Solicitor apprentice salaries are dependent on the firms that employ them. All apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage. As of April 2022, apprentices aged under 19 or 19 or over in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to £4.81 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 law firms pay more than the National Minimum Wage, and salaries usually reflect the type of role being completed (for example, legal assistant or paralegal).
The starting salary for many firms outside London usually ranges between £14,000-20,000 for a first-year solicitor apprentice, while London firms tend to pay their first-year solicitor apprentices between £20,000-26,000.
It is also worth noting that solicitor apprentice salaries steadily increase with the progression of the scheme, with final salaries, upon qualification, tending to be up to double or triple the first year’s salary. Once qualified, apprentices can expect an NQ salary, as is the case for lawyers who have qualified via other paths (e.g. training contracts).
Becoming a qualified solicitor through an apprenticeship is a fairly straightforward process, which avoids the complications of graduate applications and competition for jobs.
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