Recent years have seen some aspiring legal professionals deviate from the traditional path into the industry. Previously, those wanting to work in the legal sector required a university education and appropriate post-graduate training. Nowadays, there are a number of different avenues open to those wanting to become solicitors. The legal apprenticeship is one such option.
Law apprenticeships are government-backed, employer-designed ‘trailblazer’ schemes. They’re designed to cater for those working towards one of three levels, namely legal administration and support, paralegal or solicitor.
For many, this has been a bold move for an industry rooted in tradition. For others, it’s been seen as a welcome way to improve the diversity and skills within the profession. But does it work? Is the legal apprenticeship benefitting law firms and aspiring lawyers alike?
How it benefits apprentices
There’s no getting away from the fact that there are financial benefits. Firstly, the costs of a legal apprenticeship, depending on the firm applied to, are met by the employer and the government*.
Legal apprentices have more opportunities to save money, as they’re able to earn while they learn. This includes benefitting from paid holidays and the perks of student discounts through NUS Apprentice Extra. And all of this without the burden of a student loan, meaning they can gain their qualifications and stay debt free.
Closer professional relationships
Working closely with a firm under an apprenticeship scheme means aspiring legal eagles will have a better understanding of who they’re working for and how the firm works.
Learning on the job is a great way to develop those all-important professional relationships that will help an apprentice continue to grow and learn.
The diversity of candidates has widened as a result of schemes like the legal apprenticeship. They’ve opened the doors for more people who want to start a legal career and might not otherwise have had the chance. Taking the university route is no longer the be all and end all when it comes to the law.
Those who haven’t been able, or don’t want, to go down that route now have other options, allowing different attitudes, backgrounds and approaches to learning to enhance the diversity of the industry.
The legal apprenticeship scheme also provides more opportunities for candidates to decide how to progress their careers. Like every training route (including at degree level) not everyone will become solicitors. But what is certain is that a legal apprenticeship scheme teaches skills that are completely transferrable should those doing it choose not to pursue a career in law.
How it benefits law firms
Organisation and forward planning
Training people as part of the apprenticeship scheme will allow law firms to plan their staffing several years in advance. This can save a huge amount of valuable time and energy. If all goes well, firms won’t have to focus the usual amount of energy on the hiring process, nor do they need to spend time training and getting to know new recruits. They’ll already know exactly who is joining their team, what their strengths are, and if they’re a good fit for the firm.
Just as candidates reap the financial benefits, law firms benefit financially from legal apprenticeship schemes too. For the firm, training costs come out of the apprenticeship levy that they have to pay anyway. They also aren’t required to pay National Insurance on apprentices under 25.
Reduced staff turnover
No firm wants a high staff turnover rate. It’s costly in terms of both time and money, and can be extremely unsettling. Apprenticeship schemes can really help minimise staff turnover. Apprentices develop close working relationships with the firms they learn with, and develop a sense of loyalty early on.
The other thing to consider is that apprenticeships are tailored to the business they’re going into. In many ways, for law firms, the hard part’s already been taken care of, with no requirement to spend months fitting square pegs into round holes.
Staff that hit the ground running
Working as an apprentice allows aspiring lawyers to gain hands-on knowledge and experience. As a firm, you’ll have the benefit of hiring staff who are going to hit the ground running. Staff who’ll have plenty of independence, as well as confidence in a workplace environment.
Wider talent pool
An increase in diversity is undoubtedly one of the biggest benefits of the legal apprenticeship scheme for law firms. It creates energy and challenges norms. In a field that’s constantly evolving and fluctuating, having as many different perspectives as possible is essential to ensure well-informed, expert legal services.
At Harrogate Family Law, we’re all about forward thinking and trying to tailor our services to best meet the needs of our clients. If you’re interested in working with us, get in touch today.
*Please note that this blog is intended for information purposes only. If you’re considering the legal apprenticeship scheme as either an employer or applicant, it’s very important that you check the costs involved and how they will be met, as well as your eligibility. This will depend on your own particular circumstances. You can find out more here.