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Legal sector apprenticeships

It’s now possible to get a legal qualification by completing a trailblazer apprenticeship, or graduate apprenticeship. These are alternatives to the traditional route to qualification.  

You can complete an apprenticeship to qualify as a:

  • solicitor
  • paralegal
  • probate technician
  • chartered legal executive

For more information, download our brochure: Apprenticeships in the legal sector (PDF 2 MB).

Solicitor apprenticeships

The standards expected of apprentice solicitors are the same as those expected of all solicitors.   

As an apprentice you'll spend 20% of your working week studying and the rest of it working in a law firm. The law firm will decide how this 20% will be taken. Many firms give their apprentices one day a week to do course work.   

Find out more about solicitor apprenticeships

What a solicitor apprenticeship involves  

The solicitor apprenticeship is an ideal opportunity if you're looking for an alternative to university or seeking a change in career.

It will last from five to six years. However, any previous legal training you’ve done might reduce this time.   

As well as training, day-to-day work might include: 

  • finding information and files in the data room 
  • researching cases 
  • working with clients

You can find more information on the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) website and the government’s apprenticeship website.   

Entry requirements

Many employers have their own entry requirements which will be posted on their apprenticeship advert, but the government’s recommended entry requirements are:  

  • five GCSEs, including mathematics and English – grade C or above (or equivalent)
  • three A levels (or equivalent) – minimum grade C  

and/or

  • relevant employer-led work experience
  • Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in a relevant occupation – business administration, legal services, providing financial services  
  • Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in a relevant occupation – legal services, professional services and providing financial services (may be entitled to exemptions from training)  
  • Paralegal Apprenticeship (may be entitled to exemptions from training)
  • Legal Executive Apprenticeship (may be entitled to exemptions from training)
  • Law Degree/Graduate Diploma in Law/Legal Practice Course (entitled to exemptions from training)  

Assessment

Apprentices are assessed by the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). This is split into two parts:

  • SQE1 is a written (mainly multiple-choice) exam to test legal knowledge
  • SQE2 is a practical assessment to test skills such as client interviewing and giving advice to clients 

Apprenticeship Standard requirements

Your employer will make sure you meet the requirements of the Apprenticeship Standard for a solicitor (England) or the level 7 Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Practice (Wales). 

Graduate apprenticeships: a new and evolving alternative

A graduate solicitor apprenticeship is one pathway to qualify by completing the Solicitors Qualifying Exams (SQE1 and SQE2). This means that you can join a firm with a degree or approved equivalent. 

Graduate apprenticeships are a relatively new and evolving alternative to traditional apprenticeships. As a recent development, there's some variety in how they work at the moment.

Funding, salaries and duration

Generally, training programmes last between two and three years. Trainees can start gaining on-the-job experience and earning a salary earlier than the traditional route.

Training will be partly funded by the apprentice levy.

Trainees will receive a salary from their employer during a graduate apprenticeship. SQE training and assessments are also paid for by firms, using some or all of their contributions to the apprenticeship levy.

The levy was introduced in 2017 and is payable by all businesses with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million. However, businesses can recoup this cash provided they spend it on apprenticeship-level training.

That means that not every firm can offer apprenticeships. Of those that do, most currently offer the more traditional option, where trainees embark on up to seven years of study and work placements. 

Off-the-job training

It's important to note that the actual training set-up can also vary. In total, 20% of the apprenticeship must be spent doing off-the-job training.

For example, trainees can have block-release for study, with work placements afterwards in four to five different areas of the firm. Or, a day each week is dedicated to off-the-job study, with the four remaining days focused on the required work-based experience across placements.

Access to Work scheme

If you're disabled or have a physical or mental health condition, you may also be able to get Access to Work support. This does not cover any costs for SQE training or assessments but may help candidates with special equipment needs or transport issues.

Academia and examinations

Regardless of the route to completion, graduate apprentices will study the academic content of the SQE whilst working in a legal role, and will have the opportunity to apply some of it in practice from the very start of the training programme.

Graduate apprentices will also sit the same SQE exams as any other solicitor and solicitor apprentice will in future, no matter which way they chose to qualify.

Resources

Apprenticeships: Information for employers

Government guidance on coronavirus and apprenticeships

The government’s ‘plan for jobs’: what’s in it for solicitor firms?

Our apprenticeship stories

Three myths about apprenticeships

The Lawyer Portal – free guide to law apprenticeships

The Lawyer Portal – expert insight from a solicitor apprentice

The SRA website – solicitor apprenticeships

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