Are Legal Apprenticeships Set To Dominate The Sector?

Published by GlobalX on Nov 25, 2019

The legal sector is changing rapidly including the option students to becoming a qualified conveyancer, without incurring student debt.

The Law Society recently used Office for National Statistics (ONS) data to highlight that the £27.9 billion contributed to the economy in 2018 could fall by at least £3.5 billion if the UK exits the EU without a trade deal.

Similarly, as the younger generation’s perception of education shifts, student enrolment in traditional full-time undergraduate courses is set to reduce by 4.5% by 2023.

The current climate is creating the perfect environment for less traditional pathways into law to be explored. The emergence of apprenticeship options is fast becoming popular for both employers and students.

The Rise of the Legal Apprenticeship

The apprenticeship route is far from new but the past ‘articles of clerkship’ version was rejected by law firms who preferred to recruit from universities in order to drive up standards.

However, given the potential economic uncertainty that could ensue following a Brexit decision, the option of apprenticeships could be mutually beneficial to all key stakeholders.

The option could well increase in momentum over the coming years as the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is to become standardised and used throughout each pathway. Considering all students will need to complete this qualification before they achieve qualified solicitor status from 2021, many students could be lured in by the many benefits.

Students now have the option of becoming a qualified solicitor and conveyancer, without incurring student debt, within six years of leaving school. Students are able to earn as they learn with their course paid for by their employers and the Government.

Many apprenticeship routes enable students to work for 80% of their week, offering them the enviable opportunity of working alongside experienced staff, gaining job specific skills, getting ahead within the legal sector and obtaining a degree whilst being employed.

With costs in excess of £27,000 for the course, employers may be initially reluctant to embrace the scheme. However, the majority of these costs are now paid for by the Government with the law firm only liable for the student’s wages.

How legal apprenticeships can benefit businesses

The introduction of alternative business structures (ABSs), the conveyancing only firms and the new SRA regulations has made changed the traditional management structures and also their approach to recruitment.

Many firms are looking at this route as a way to recruit the best talent, earlier and ultimately training them in the philosophies of the firm which could help with staff retention.

Some are also using the system as a way of monitoring their processes and enhancing the skills of all colleagues who will help nurture the talent completing the course.

Retention rates for newly qualified solicitors hit a ten year high in 2018 with over 81% of newly qualified staff retaining their job at the same firm they completed their apprenticeship or training contract.

According to Chambers Student, the 120 firms analysed retained 1,737 out of 2,141 newly qualified solicitors last year.

2008 was the last time this figure was bettered when 82% of trainee solicitors were retained once they had qualified. However, following the recession this figure plummeted to 74% in 2009.

Following the decision to leave the EU in 2016, figures had dropped below 79% retention in 2017. However, despite the uncertainty, law firms are choosing to nurture and retain the talent they invest in.