Leeds firm Gordons has launched an apprenticeship scheme for school leavers that will enable them to become legal practitioners without going to university.
The four-year programme, starting this September, is aimed at youngsters who would otherwise find it difficult to enter the profession.
The firm will fund five students who have just finished A-levels to go on a course run by the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX), and will pay them salaries. The course fees will cost the firm £32,500 in total.
The students will become trained legal executives, and will later have the opportunity to take a conversion course and qualify as solicitors.
Partners will interview candidates to select a shortlist of 10, who will begin work experience at the firm this July. Five of these will then be selected for the full apprenticeship.
Managing partner Paul Ayre, who came up with the idea after watching the BBC programme Who Gets the Best Jobs?, said: “One of the barriers [to the legal profession] is the need to be university-educated.
“For a variety of reasons, not all bright and ambitious 17 and 18-year-olds are able to go on to further education. Our idea is to create opportunities for some of these.”