In years to come, we could be looking back on 2016 as a landmark moment, the year the legal sector’s recruitment landscape changed.
The traditional route to law
Historically, if you wanted to become a solicitor, the traditional route would include a university degree, the GDL (graduate diploma in law, required if your university degree wasn’t in Law), the LPC (legal practice certificate) and a 2 year training contract. The route to becoming a solicitor without attending university was a long and uncertain one.
However, with tuition fees at an all-time high, university simply isn’t an option for many and the prospect of racking up enormous debt puts others off.
Consequently, the legal sector is potentially missing out on a huge pool of talent from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Here enters the new legal apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships are clearly high on the employment agenda following the government’s 2015 manifesto, which included an ambitious commitment made to ‘increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships in England, reaching three million starts in 2020’.
In August last year, the BBC provided further detail on the apprenticeships plan outlined by the government and in September the Law Society Gazette reported on the government approving the standards for a new apprenticeship route to the legal profession in a move that paves the way for solicitor apprenticeships to start in September 2016.
In the legal sector, the focus in England is on the three new employer-led ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeships in law. From this coming September, these will enable candidates aged 18 or over to undertake an apprenticeship lasting from two to six years to become a paralegal or legal executive or to qualify as a solicitor.
The new alternative route – earn while you learn
The government’s new Trailblazer apprenticeships will enable students to sign up straight from school to a five or six year programme of work-based learning and assessment. The programme results in qualification as a solicitor, in addition to the 5+ years of work experience you’ll have gained.
To be considered for the scheme, apprentices-to-be will need a minimum of five GCSEs (including English and Maths) at a grade C or above, and 3 ‘A’ levels (or equivalent) at grade C or above.
Choose the right route for you
There are pro’s and con’s to both routes.
It could be argued that a degree can open doors if the student no longer wishes to pursue a career in law; or that apprentices miss out on the ‘university experience’.
On flip side, on completion of the programme the ‘apprentice’ would have 5-6 years vital work experience vs 2 years work experience the equivalent university student would have at the same stage; plus the ‘apprentice’ is likely to have considerably less debt not having had to pay tuition fees.
Either way, both routes will demand a considerable amount of commitment and the important thing is to choose the right one for you.
Helping spread the word
At Susan Howarth & Company, we’re committed to working with local schools and colleges to help educate students on these changes, making law as a career and legal practices as employers more accessible.
Please keep an eye on our Events page for details of forthcoming local careers events we’ll be attending.
If you require any specific legal advice, we offer our clients a range of FREE drop-in legal clinics or a FREE half hour appointment.
For more details, please e-mail us or call the office on 01606 48777.