With a glut of LPC graduates who not do not have to be paid the SRA's minimum salary and do not have a TC, I wonder how many more law firms, other than those already signed up, are going to be interested in taking on an 18 year old as a part of their legal practice.
From the apprentice's point of view it's not idea either. If they want to branch out into something different at some point (as quite a few lawyers do), they won't have a degree to fall back on.
Whilst not all areas of practice require much client contact, some, such as Private Client, Family etc do. Trainees can expect to meet clients far earlier after they have started, whereas I cannot see a law firm being bold enough to stick an apprentice in a room with a client at least until the apprentice has spend a significant amount of time at the firm.
I also worry about the quality and professionalism of the legal sector (which is a significant earner for the economy in the UK's service-based industry) being affected by the rolling out of this new route into law. No doubt competition amongst applicants for an apprenticeship will go some way towards improving the quality of the intake, but nonetheless, a university degree, a GDL if necessary, and an LPC is arguably a better way of ensuring more mature people, with a track record of academic (and therefore arguably cerebral) capability get in to the profession.
It also appears from this article that apprentices are likely to get pidgeon-holed into a particular area of practice. However, notwithstanding the general trend towards solicitors becoming more specialised in a particular area, an industry-sector approach to client's needs requires more awareness of relevant aspects to work, just think of an acquisition for example and all the areas that a solicitor must know are relevant. I would be interested to know whether an apprentice who had been brought up solely in the property department would be conscious that something like the effects of TUPE (as an example from employment law) on a business/asset acquisition would have to be considered.
Perhaps I'm just misinformed, and I won't deny that there is a certain disappointment that, whilst I would not choose it, I did not at least have the option to do this five years ago (given the fiasco with the trainee minimum wage).
However, whilst I concede the above, I do not agree with the incessant drive to make everything more "accessible". Quite frankly, some things are meant to be hard, otherwise we'd all just be lawyers and doctors, wouldn't we? It requires commitment and self-confidence to get into debt and spend x number of years studying to become a lawyer and this is something anyone can do. There are loans, grants and bursaries available and you can finance yourself through uni, no matter what your parent's financial status. Having put it like that, I can see why the apprenticeship scheme is attractive; but not necessarily as good.