Solicitor Apprenticeships

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In our new apprenticeship profile series, we get the scoop on the apprenticeships on offer by speaking to insiders. Here, you’ll find everything you need to choose the firm that’s right for you.

“I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer at 18, so finding out I could start pursuing it immediately after A- levels (whilst still coming out of it with a degree) had me sold!”: Everything you need to know about the SRA’s new solicitor apprenticeship route.

[Scroll to the bottom for a full list and links to all our participating firms.]

Solicitor apprenticeships

The SRA’s new solicitor apprenticeship is an alternative to the traditional training contract, where apprentices split their time between work-based study (on the job at a law firm or in-house legal team), and part time study. Whilst it does mean spending six years with your law firm or in-house legal team of choice, you’ll still (in many cases) come out of it with a law degree, and you’ll qualify in the same amount of time as going to university and completing the traditional training contract. Solicitor apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular option for aspiring lawyers drawn to the student debt-free journey to qualification. Perfect for those who just want to “hit the ground running.”

Aimed at school leavers or individuals with equivalent qualifications, this is an opportune pathway for those who feel that the traditional university experience isn’t for them. Rather than heading straight into three years of university, solicitor apprentices immediately step into the workplace and start earning right away, studying for their degree and then the SQE, alongside. By removing the financial barrier, the solicitor apprenticeship seeks to increase accessibility and attract a more diverse pool of talent to the legal profession.

“I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in law eventually, but I thought that I would need to follow the ‘usual’ university route, which didn’t particularly appeal to me.” – Apprentice at Muckle

Since 2015, the pathway has been slotted in as part of the government’s ‘trailblazer’ initiative, and began to flourish under the benefits of the apprenticeship levy in 2017. At that stage, a mere 30 apprentices had made the jump, but by 2021/22, there were 584 on the SRA’s books, more than doubling in the space of a year. Wind the clock back to 1728 (the year of the Attorneys and Solicitor Act), and aspiring lawyers were required to spend at least five years as clerks training under qualified lawyers, and up until 1990, trainees were known as ‘articled clerks.’ So, while university was until recently seen as the ‘default’ pathway, historically, ‘on the job’ training was the only option available.

Whilst not every firm offers a solicitor apprenticeship, opportunities do exist across a wide range of regional, national and multinational firms. So, it really is a case of ‘take your pick’ when it comes to choosing where to apply. In London, over 50 firms have collaborated in the latest City Century Initiative to offer this pathway to future lawyers in the city. But make no mistake about it, these opportunities are not confined to the capital. Many regional firms have adopted this pathway, such as the North East Solicitor Apprenticeship (NESA) which has been providing opportunities since 2017.  

What does it involve?

Rather than jumping from A-levels to university, from university to law school, and then law school into a training contract, the solicitor apprenticeship rolls all three into one. Solicitor apprentices will still need to pass the SQE, but study for these exams will be condensed into 1-2 days a week, eventually building up that essential qualifying work experience (QWE). So, at the very end you will obtain a Level 7 Solicitor Apprenticeship (a master's degree equivalent) and become a qualified solicitor.

The structure of a solicitor apprenticeship (sometime called a legal apprenticeship) varies from firm to firm. So, it is essential that you research and understand the specific requirements and programme structure of the firm you are interested in (which you can find below). It’s also worth working out what you will/want to get out of the process, to be able to explain why you have chosen this route over the traditional training contract. Some firms, for example, may require that you first complete a paralegal qualification with them (or you can do so externally before applying). On the off chance you do happen to have some legal training under your belt, you may find that you don’t have to do it for the typical six years.

While solicitor apprenticeships offer an alternative to the traditional university route, you’ll often still come out of them with a degree. Many firms have chosen to incorporate the LLB (qualifying law degree) or LLM masters as part of their solicitor apprenticeship programme at no financial cost to you! Although this is not a requirement thanks to the SQE, firms can choose to offer it and it can only benefit your future career. As only the essential SQE criteria needs to be met to qualify, then whether it’s a law degree or degree equivalent, “by the end of their training apprentices [will] achieve the same high-quality qualification as someone who has opted for the traditional route”, according to Gov UK. So, regardless of which solicitor apprenticeship programme you’re on, all successful participants will have what they need to qualify.

What are the requirements?

Firstly, it is absolutely vital to note that each firm sets its own eligibility criteria for their solicitor apprenticeship schemes (you can find the full details in the profiles below). But the government's Institute for Apprentices and Technical Education has provided some guidance.

The recommended minimum entry requirements are:

  • 5 GCSEs, including mathematics & English - grade C or above (or equivalent);
  • 3 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). **

** It is important to note that while graduate solicitor apprenticeships do exist, it is an evolving route. Some firms don’t accept graduates onto their solicitor apprenticeship programmes as the trainee solicitor pathway is open to those candidates, though some do offer both.

So, what’s the catch?

Well, there isn’t really any big one. The solicitor apprenticeship route will provide you with exposure to legal work much sooner, all whilst keeping costs low (as your tuition fees and costs of exams will be covered by your law firm or company). Most importantly, it gives you the freedom to ‘earn as you learn’, and put together an invaluable body of experience at the same time. Of course, you won’t have the typical university experience, which has both positives and negatives, and it is a six-year commitment. The starting salary is lower than you would start at as a trainee, but you will of course start earning considerably earlier, and with all your costs to qualification covered, it’s probably well worth it.

If that wasn’t enough, the SRA recently found that “apprentices are outperforming other candidates seeking to qualify as solicitors.” In 2021/22, the apprenticeship pass rate was on average 26% higher than the overall pass rate, and marks on average were 8% higher across SQE 1&2 compared to other candidates. Which just goes to show, the blend of classroom and on-the-job learning is setting up solicitor apprentices for success!


Apprenticeship profile series: Find out more about life as an apprentice at some of the leading firms below:


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