Legal apprenticeships are gathering pace. In 2011, the Government funded the development of a higher apprenticeship in legal services, an undergraduate-level alternative for bright, ambitious 18+ year olds in England. Since then, an advanced apprenticeship in legal services has been developed (it launched in September) and there is also an entry level apprenticeship for legal administrators. Now, there is a route that can take a young person from leaving school at 16 or 18 all the way through to being qualified paralegal at 21 or 22.
Barely a week goes by without a firm announcing an apprenticeship programme. Kennedys, TLT, Plexus, Browne Jacobson, DWF, Addleshaws, Co-op Legal Services and Weightmans are just a few of the well-known names that have recruited or are recruiting apprenticeships. Not bad, given that there were almost no apprenticeships in the legal sector only a couple of months ago.
For firms, the interest is clearly in the opportunity to improve cost structures. Depending on the level, an apprentice may start on £9-14K pa. Three months in, If s/he can free up to 2-3 hours of a fee earners time per week to generate fee income, the firm is turning a profit. Once the apprentice is fee earning (even modestly), the returns improve substanitally. For an advanced or higher apprentice this should be the case within six months. Retention is another strong driver. To get the best out of the apprenticeship programme, the apprentice needs to stay in their job for three years plus. Progression to qualified lawyer status (Via the CILEx route initially) is possible as the apprenticeships include CILEx qualifications. However this is not the apprentice's immediate goal. Added incentives include the heavily government-subsidised training (recruitment is often free) and grants available to firms recruiting apprentices for the first time. The promise of a structure training and development programme can also help smaller firms compete for high quality candidates if you are considering apprenticeships, do consult one of the handful of specialist providers out there. If you want to recruit a group, bear in mind seasonality - most strong 18 year olds will be off to university or in another job by October. If you want to recruit one or two apprentices at once and are happy to consider people who haven't just left full-time education you can recruit more flexibly. Delivery models vary too: some training providers use weekly day release, for others it's more 1:1 contact complemented by on-line resources.
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