Stephenson Harwood has launched a six-year apprenticeship scheme open to students finishing school.

The purpose of the apprenticeship is to provide an alternative route into law, offering participants the chance to qualify as a solicitor following a six-year stint training with the firm across different practice groups.

Applications for the scheme will open in October 2020 before starting in September of next year. A number of other City law firms already offer solicitor apprenticeships, including Mayer Brown, Addleshaw Goddard and Eversheds Sutherland.

As well as this, Stephenson Harwood is also offering £15,000 to aspiring lawyers as part of a scholarship promoted by chief executive Eifion Morris. The initiative forms part of a “personal” diversity push from Morris, whose career has led him from a comprehensive school education in rural Wales to becoming Stephenson Harwood’s new CEO as of last October.

The £15,000-a year scholarship is per each successful candidate and covers the cost of university fees and contributes to living expenses. Successful candidates will also be guaranteed a place at an assessment centre for a training contract, while also receiving a mentor and work experience from the firm.

“Widening access to the legal profession is something about which I am particularly passionate,” says IP specialist Morris. “Of course it’s the right thing to do, and we all know that diversity – in all its forms – is so important in any successful business. But, for me, this one’s personal.”

Coming from a family of 10 grandchildren, where one grandfather was a miner and the other was a farmer, Morris became the first and only one in his family to go to university: “I have been an ‘outsider’ for much of my professional life – whether in terms of my background, working in my second language, my sexuality or choosing a training contract at a mid-sized firm with a unique training system [at Gouldens] over the traditional four seats at a magic circle firm.

“The progression to higher education is something that was a natural expectation by most of my colleagues, however, that is not true for everyone and wasn’t my experience growing up. It was by no means a given that I would end up as a solicitor or leading an international law firm.

“We need more diversity in law, more people who may have thought that a career in law is not for ‘people like them’ and that’s what these programmes seek to support.”