What Are the Advantages of Legal Apprenticeships?
While the most typical route taken to arrive at a job in the legal sector is via a university degree, there are alternative methods available that some may find more personally suitable.
Beth Brindley at Blacks Solicitors discusses legal apprenticeships, her experience and why more people should consider non-traditional routes into the legal sector.
As a vocational career, many people often have an idea that they want to work within the legal sector, but there can be barriers that are presented by the more traditional routes, such as university. Legal apprenticeship schemes allow for diversity and can give people who might not be able or want to go to university the opportunity to still achieve their dream career.
Legal apprenticeships have seen a huge increase as more people become aware of the opportunities that are available. In fact, according to The Lawyer Portal, there has been a 40% increase in the number of apprenticeship opportunities made available in 2021, and there are an estimated 2,000 apprenticeships offered nationally across around 400 employers. They present an alternative way to become a lawyer, paralegal, or chartered legal executive without having to study law at university.
Legal apprenticeships are government-backed and employer-designed schemes that involve working and studying. Ultimately, a legal apprentice should be able to end up qualifying in whichever legal field they find most interesting.
What legal apprenticeships are available?
There are a number of legal apprenticeships that are available. For example, at Blacks Solicitors there is a choice of three apprenticeships schemes: Level Three Paralegal, Level Seven Solicitor and Graduate Solicitor. The Level Three Paralegal apprenticeship takes two years to complete and the entry level is 96 UCAS points. The Level Seven Solicitor apprenticeship takes six years to complete and is suitable for anyone with no prior legal education. The entry level is 128 UCAS points. And finally, the Graduate Solicitor Apprenticeship takes 2.5 years to complete and is suitable for those who’ve already completed their law degree or PGDL.
After realising that I wanted to become a lawyer and that university was not for me, I carried out a lot of research to understand the different options that were available, which at the time were not well publicised. I found the solicitor apprenticeship route via BPP University, which led me to Blacks Solicitors.
Ultimately, a legal apprentice should be able to end up qualifying in whichever legal field they find most interesting.
I am the first apprentice to qualify at the firm through the Level Seven Solicitor Apprenticeship, and I was one of the first to apply when it was first offered at Blacks in 2016. The course gave me significant opportunities to experience life in a variety of different teams, gain valuable experience in a well-respected law firm and receive payment as I learned.
What is involved in a legal apprenticeship?
In general, as a legal apprentice you are likely to spend around 80% of your time working in the firm and 20% studying with the academic provider.
The scheme is designed to present apprentices with the opportunity to gain a range of experience to develop legal skills, commercial awareness and knowledge of different areas of law. However, it is important to remember that each apprenticeship will differ in terms of roles and responsibilities.
For example, I started as a Solicitor Apprentice in September 2016 and throughout my apprenticeship I gained experience across a variety of teams before qualifying in the Corporate and Commercial team. My apprenticeship gave me the required skills to specialise in commercial contracts including T&Cs, supply contracts, distribution contracts and licence agreements. I have also secured expertise in intellectual property and trade mark registrations.
Why should other people consider a legal apprenticeship?
For anyone who knows that university is not for them, it is important to remember that there are still options when it comes to achieving their dream career. As with many sectors, the apprenticeship route presents a fantastic opportunity to leave the traditional education system and learn on the job.
Whilst academia and learning is critical for a job in the legal sector, the workplace requires an additional set of skills which are not currently taught in our education system. Apprenticeships offer the best of both worlds, with the academia broken up with practical, hands-on experience.
After six years, I have the same qualifications as somebody who has followed the ‘traditional route’, in addition to no student debt and an invaluable skill set that most university graduates do not have.
Working closely with a provider such as BPP University and a good law firm that places its people at the heart of business decisions will also mean that apprentices are able to balance their time between study, work and general life. This in turn means that not only are you being paid, but that you can still experience the same things that university students do.
As with any route into a new career, there are always important considerations to take into account. Always make sure to research the company that you are planning to apply to. Whilst the apprenticeship route presents lots of opportunities and benefits, it can be very stressful.
A good law firm that appreciates its people will ensure that you have a good work-life balance and that the proper support is there whenever you need it. This also includes the culture – working somewhere with a good culture where employees get involved and socialise with each other will make settling into the job more straightforward and enjoyable.
Securing as much experience as possible will also be extremely beneficial to anyone looking to apply for a legal apprenticeship. For example, during my application process, I went to the local magistrates’ court and sat in, and also became involved in a week-long mock case at my college.
You should not be scared to throw yourself into the legal world, but at the same time, that is not always possible. Using resources such as social media platforms and networking events can also contribute to an impressive CV and show your dedication to the profession that you have chosen. More information on legal apprenticeships can also be found on the Blacks Solicitors website.
Beth Brindley, Solicitor
City Point, 29 King Street, Leeds, LS1 2HL, UK
Tel: +44 01133 222809 | +44 07542 684721
Beth Brindley is a solicitor in the Corporate and Commercial team at Black Solicitors. She deals with a range of commercial matters including the drafting and reviewing terms and conditions and other commercial contracts, advising on intellectual property-related matters and assisting with an array of music law matters.
Blacks Solicitors is a 28-partner firm that provides a wide range of legal services to commercial and private clients in Yorkshire and across the UK. Blacks provides advice on corporate and commercial law, commercial property, leasehold enfranchisement, planning and highways law, employment and human resources, commercial and civil dispute resolution and litigation, residential and Buy-to-let conveyancing, wills and probate and family law.