Opportunities for school leavers in law
In 2014 the government kick-started an initiative to get more school-leavers into law and encourage law firms to take on more apprentices in a wider range of roles. At the time of writing, these schemes are still in the preliminary planning stages, but we will keep you updated when more news arrives. Below we’ve outlined the current options you’ve got as a school leaver seeking a career in law.
Paralegal apprenticeship and CILEx progression
Several major law firms already run legal services apprenticeships for school leavers. Advanced level apprenticeships normally lead to basic law qualifications through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) Law School and a full-time job as a paralegal, paralegal assistant or conveyancing assistant. Higher apprenticeships lead to a further qualification in law and a more senior paralegal position. A levels or a college diploma in law are normally entry requirements for such schemes, although much training and study can be undertaken on the job. Firms offering legal services apprenticeships at the moment include: Withers LLP, Addleshaw Goddard, Kennedys, and Lance Mason.
You may begin studying with CILEx during your apprenticeship. Once you have completed your initial apprenticeship period of training and employment, you may wish to continue studying towards other qualifications. CILEx offers professional diplomas in law that can be studied part time and, after several years of study and a period of qualifying employment, you may be eligible to practise as a chartered legal executive.
The University of Law has announced an ‘articled apprenticeship’ that will be rolled out as an option for law firm employers. This is a six-year period of employment and study that should result in qualification as a solicitor. Four years of the ‘apprenticeship’ will involve part-time employment and study towards an undergraduate law degree, while the remaining two years will be spent studying for the solicitors’ legal practice course (LPC) qualification. The degree and LPC may be funded in part or entirely by the employer.
Several law firms and legal enterprises have signed up to the government’s trailblazer initiative for apprenticeships in law. Initial details indicate that this will allow a school leaver to qualify as a solicitor, paralegal or chartered legal executive. The firms and groups signed up to the programme and are expected to offer it in 2017.
Note on salaries
The national minimum wage for apprentices is £3.50 per hour (as of April 2017), but many legal services apprenticeships may pay more. Paralegals may start on £12,000, but wages can increase with seniority to up to £26,000.
By comparison, a trainee solicitor who has graduated from university and the LPC could start on anything between £12,000 and £65,000, rising to as much as £97,500 on full qualification at larger firms. Commercial barristers may earn as much as £100,000 in the first year after pupillage, although this will vary according to each individual. According to CILEx figures, fully qualified chartered legal executives can earn between £35,000 and £55,000 in practice.