Becoming an apprentice solicitor is an increasingly attractive prospect for those interested in a career in law. Designed to offer increased accessibility to the legal profession, they are an ever-increasing topic of conversation amongst aspiring solicitors.
The traditional route into law has always been to attend university to study for a qualifying law degree. However, the modern-day future solicitor can instead choose from a range of solicitor apprenticeships, which are becoming increasingly common.
Solicitor apprenticeships are mainly undertaken mainly by students upon completion of their A-Levels. Some employers in the United Kingdom offer solicitor apprenticeships programmes to individuals who have completed some legal training. This includes law graduates or individuals who have completed the Legal Practice Course.
These candidates will still need to complete all elements of the SQE. However, additional experience or education can accelerate the program and it may not take the full 5 – 6 years to complete.
The first thing to note is that there are many different types of solicitor apprenticeship. In fact, there are many different types of legal apprenticeship altogether – for example a Level 3 Paralegal apprenticeship. This page, however, focuses on the apprenticeships which can qualify you as a solicitor.
The most common type of solicitor apprenticeship is the ‘Level 7’ Apprenticeship. This targets students who have just completed their A Levels and are considering an alternative route to university. It is also available to legal personnel who are not yet qualified, for example paralegals.
Your QWE comes from the work that you’ll be doing at your sponsoring organisation (usually a law firm). You will generally split your time approximately 80/20 between work and study. The entire process takes 6 years in total.
Take a look at the University of Law’s level 7 solicitor apprenticeship.
A new option for those interested in the apprenticeship route is the ‘graduate solicitor apprentice‘.
Graduate solicitor apprenticeships are available to final students who have completed the LLB law degree. They may also be an option for non-law graduates who have completed the graduate diploma in law (GDL).
This is a great way to boost your work experience whilst having your fees paid for. Normally, you would apply to a graduate solicitor apprenticeship in your final year of university. and essentially work alongside your studies for the SQE or LPC (with QWE ongoing as part of the deal).
The length of a solicitor apprenticeship can differ based on the type and previous experience or education. The Level 7 solicitor apprenticeship route usually takes 6 years in total (post A Level). Graduate solicitor apprenticeships last 2 years (with QWE included alongside SQE study – essentially law school with work on the side).
Level 7 solicitor apprenticeships tend to take 6 years to complete. Students with prior legal apprenticeships or relevant experience may shorten the required timeframe.
Currently, companies offer the majority of graduate solicitor apprenticeships with a duration of 2.5 years. However, since these are relatively new programmes, the structure is still undergoing changes. Be sure to check individual providers’ websites for more details.
A solicitor apprenticeship involves spending 3-4 days a week at a law firm to learn practical skills. You will spend the remaining 20% of your time on developing your legal education. Your company will work with a law school, like the University of Law, to manage the educational part of your apprenticeship.
Working at the firm includes tasks like researching cases, drafting legal documents, advising clients, attending meetings, and managing legal transactions. This will give you a good understanding of how a law firm works and what solicitors do. Read our collaborative article with Dentons on the kind of work they offer their solicitor apprentices.
As an apprentice solicitor, you must complete legal qualifications such as the SQE. These qualifications cover different areas of law. However, the type of law firm you work at will affect the practical experience you gain in specific areas of law.
The academic portion of a solicitor apprenticeship will cover content from a regular LLB degree and the SQE. In general, students will study topics such as contract, criminal, tort, tax laws and administration. However, modules will vary depending on your course provider.
Watch our Q&A with Maia Crockford, a solicitor apprentice at an international law firm.
The grade requirements for a solicitor apprenticeship vary widely between firms. For the traditional Level 7 path, you will need a solid academic record at GCSE. Your A level grades will likely need to be between BBC and AAB.
If applying from university for a graduate solicitor apprenticeship, the vast majority of firms simply ask for a 2.1.
Grades aren’t the only deciding factor for your application, however. The recruitment process will also include application questions and a series of interviews. Aptitude tests may also be a requirement for certain firms (e.g. critical thinking tests like the Watson Glaser; you can try out a free practice test here).
Here are some quick tips for acing your solicitor apprenticeship applications:
Applying for a solicitor apprenticeship programme requires a great deal of research. Which firms offer apprenticeships? What is the application process like, and what can you do to optimise your chances of success?
The first point to consider is where you can obtain a solicitor apprenticeship from. Solicitor apprenticeships are increasingly common among major City firms. Allen & Overy launched theirs in 2022, and other Magic Circle firms are now developing their own programmes.
Check out our list of featured firms for solicitor apprenticeship opportunities.
One of the main advantages of apprenticeships is the ability to earn a salary while you work towards your qualification. The typical solicitor apprenticeship salary can vary widely between firms. By default, you will be to the national minimum wage.
Outside London, salaries vary between £14,000 and £19,000. In London, solicitor apprentice salaries range from £20,000 and £25,000. Each year, apprentices will receive a raise. Upon qualifying, you can expect to earn the same starting salary as newly qualified associates who took the training contract route.
Making the choice between an apprenticeship and university requires detailed research and careful consideration, as we discuss at length in our guide to making the decision. Some of the key differences include:
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