Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer could become the first magic circle firm to embrace apprenticeships after management revealed plans to bring legal apprentices in to its Manchester office.

The firm is also looking into offering training contracts in Manchester, though said this is unlikely to happen in the short term.

Manchester head Gareth Stephenson said Freshfields hoped to open up apprenticeships as a route to both paralegal work and full qualification in the next 12 months.

“I wouldn’t rule anything out at this stage,” Stephenson told Lawyer 2B. “I want to get apprentices in in the short term and progress them up the ladder.”

He added apprentices were “more likely to stay with the firm for a longer period”.

“Anything we can do to retain people for longer is very beneficial for the firm,” he said.

Final details have yet to be ironed out, with Stephenson unable to comment on final numbers of apprenticeships, start dates or pay, or confirm the level of qualification that will be offered.

Freshfields apprenticeships in Manchester would mark a significant development in the legal market, and provide a career route for juniors at Freshfields in Manchester for the first time.

The magic circle firm opened in Manchester last year, relocating around 300 paralegal and business services roles to the new hub.

Currently based at Arndale House, the team will move to One New Bailey in Salford later this year.

The Manchester base is also set for rapid expansion, with management understood to have set their sights on a final 650-person headcount at the office over the next few years.

So far just one firm, Eversheds, has launched the Government’s Trailblazer level seven apprenticeship, which leads to qualification as a solicitors after six years of paid training and an assessment by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). ITV’s in-house team has also launched them.

Eversheds will take on eight legal apprentices this year, all of which will be offered a position at the firm on completion. Applicants will be paid a starting salary of £15,200 outside London and £17,200 in London, which will go up each year.