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Want to be a lawyer but do not fancy or can’t afford to go to university? Apprenticeships in legal services are a fairly new concept, but a number of law firms have begun to introduce ways for school-leavers to earn while they learn
From September 2012, universities began to raise their tuition fees to up to £9,000 per year, and we are forever being reminded that the number of jobs available for graduates is tight. For aspiring lawyers, the potential debt continues to rack up through training, with many students having to fork out for the cost of the Graduate Diploma in Law and the Legal Practice Course, not to mention high living expenses.
Legal apprenticeships offer school-leavers a debt-free career path with a qualification at the end. Most current apprenticeships offer the chance to become a chartered legal executive: a role that’s similar to that of a solicitor.
To date, firms including Browne Jacobson, Co-operative Legal Services, DWF, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Freeth Cartwright, Gordons, Irwin Mitchell, Kennedys, Minster Law, Plexus Law, Pinsent Masons, TLT and Weightmans have rolled out legal apprentice schemes, with the majority choosing to harness the knowledge and expertise of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) to deliver the academic side of the training.
The law firms put up the £6,900 cost of CILEx as well as covering the full cost of other training needs. What’s more, the budding lawyer’s entry-level salary could go towards any living expenses.
This combined route can act as a substitute for A-levels, a degree and the professional training course requirement, giving school-leavers the opportunity to dive head first into a legal career while simultaneously learning the theoretical elements.
The average salary for a legal apprentice is difficult to predict, although the national minimum wage for apprentices is £2.65 per hour. DWF pays its apprentices £10,000 per annum, while first-year trainees at the firm receive a salary of £35,000.
Admittedly, the salary is markedly lower than a trainee solicitor’s, but it is easy to forget that a 16 to 18-year-old apprentice could have a head start of between five and six years in a law firm.
Type of work
Most apprentices to date have reported undertaking some similar work to trainee solicitors within their firm, although apprentices do not have to complete seat-rotation like trainees, allowing them to spend longer in a department they enjoy.
However, as an entry-level member of staff, apprentices will be required to complete more administrative work before gaining paralegal status.
Once a paralegal, they normally get the opportunity to get stuck into legal work while learning the theoretical side with CILEx.
It is possible to cross-qualify as a solicitor once you have completed CILEx training, although most qualified legal executives see little point in this.
To find out about apprenticeship opportunities, students can contact CILEx directly to see which law firms are partnered with it. However, if you are not that interested in gaining CILEx qualifications but fancy the idea of a career as a paralegal, it is worth contacting local law firms directly to see if they offer any ad hoc positions.
Also, keep an eye on the legal press. Lawyer 2B, for example, has a list of law firms on its website, as well as news stories about new apprenticeship opportunities.
Firms known to be offering apprenticeships
|Essex Council||Intermediate Apprenticeship in Legal Administration, CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2014|
|Bond Dickinson||CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2014|
|Hill Dickinson||CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2014|
|Withers||CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2014|
|Taylor & Emmet||CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2014|
|Oldham Council||CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2014|
|BBC||CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2014|
|Clyde & Co||CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2014|
|Weightmans||CILEx Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2013|
|DAC Beachcroft||CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2013|
|Mayer Brown||NVQ in Business Administration (courses may vary)||2013|
|Thomas Eggar||CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2013|
|Addleshaw Goddard||NVQ level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services||2013|
|Shoosmiths||CILEx Level 4 Higher Apprenticeships||2013|
|Field Fisher Waterhouse||CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice||2013|
|Browne Jacobson||CILEx Level 2 Intermediate Apprenticeship in Legal Administration (supplemented with additional legal specific modules from CILEx Level 3 qualifications)||2012|
|Co-operative Legal Services||Apprenticeship academy||2012|
|Cartwright King||Non-legal roles||2012|
|Eversheds||Paralegal and non-legal roles||2011|
|Norton Rose Fulbright||Non-legal roles||2011|