Solicitor Apprentices: investing in the future

The solicitor apprenticeship scheme is fast becoming mainstream in the legal sector and for good reason. The apprenticeship route is an earn-as-you-learn route for potential solicitors, facilitating greater diversity in the workforce, improving social mobility and giving law firms comparative flexibility in how they train their future solicitors.

For the apprentice, the scheme enables the solicitor-in-training to skip A’levels, avoid the high financial costs of university and offers a flexible route into the profession for individuals who have difficult or challenging personal circumstances at a time when the scramble for training contracts is greater than ever.

Individuals who aspire to a legal career but who are less academic or have no burning desire to go university, and want to learn in a highly practical way, now have a viable option.

What is the solicitor apprenticeship scheme?
For those still unfamiliar with the nuts and bolts of the solicitor apprentice pathway, it presents an alternative route into the profession which can greatly benefit firms. Those who already have solicitor apprentices are reporting great success so far and say they are able to recruit from a more diverse pool of talent than they might not otherwise be able to.

There are different options, mainly the six-year ‘trailblazer’ apprenticeship scheme and the paralegal apprenticeship. The solicitor-apprenticeship scheme is a level 7 apprenticeship (equivalent to a master’s degree) and approved by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills). It enables someone to qualify as a solicitor after five or six years and then be admitted by the SRA. It involves passing a two-stage examination, the forthcoming (and much maligned) Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) (part two is to be completed during the last six months of the apprenticeship).

Apprentices must also successfully complete the Professional Skills Course and firms are expected by the SRA to pay the fees and related expenses, at least for the trainee's first attempt.

Entry requirements are down to individual firms but at least five good GCSEs and three A’levels are typically required. Without A’levels, the individual would need to embark on the paralegal apprenticeship scheme first.

The apprenticeship standard is based on the SRA-approved competence statement for solicitors which describes the skill, knowledge and behaviours required of apprentices before they can qualify as a solicitor.

Apart from satisfying this standard, law firms are able to decide how they train their apprentices with not a lot of regulatory oversight. A training principal must be appointed and, while there are regular meeting between firms - as the training provider - and the SRA, firms are relatively autonomous. This means firms have a fair amount of flexibility in training and can, for example, make the most of the individual’s unique skills and interests to their mutual advantage.

Under the paralegal apprenticeship scheme, apprentices undertake a two-year paralegal apprenticeship scheme and can then join the solicitor apprenticeship scheme if they decide. This route also takes six years, but a benefit is the apprentice can make an informed decision at the end of two years whether or not to continue.

Note that the SRA expects solicitor apprentices to complete a portfolio of work and, at the end of the apprenticeship, the apprentice will then apply to the SRA to be admitted to the roll.

Once authorised by the SRA, the firm can employ as many trainees as it feels appropriate, providing it can meet the regulatory requirements. Training firms may also be monitored by the SRA to ensure the training given is of an appropriate quality and standard.

Investing in the future
It is vital for firms considering taking on apprentices to appreciate what is involved and what to expect. Firms, training and supervision managers in particular, need to appreciate their apprentices will be younger than the typical trainee solicitor under a training contract. Apprentices will typically be late teens and it may well be their first foray into the workplace. They will be joining a fast-paced and pressured working environment as your youngest and most inexperienced members of staff.

Choose apprentices wisely (are they a good fit for the firm?); structure the training programme (and review constantly); nurture and support them as they grow in maturity, professionalism and legal knowledge and technical skills.

A firm approach
There’s also the issue of education to consider. Apprentice solicitors will be studying externally alongside working – they could be studying for up to 15 hours each week. The individual (remember, they will typically be very young) will be under a lot of pressure as they combine the work and study. They also have a private life.

This means it is vital to recognise the necessity for the individual apprentice to have regular space away from the office to attend classes or for study. This requires a top-down approach: the whole team needs to appreciate that the solicitor apprentice will not always be available to work on a case or matter and should not be expected to be.

Wellbeing has become one of the most used words in the context of the legal profession and mental health. As the youngest members of your firm, their wellbeing must be protected.

Given they are likely to be unwilling, reluctant or unsure about raising a problem themselves, firms should consider ensuring there is an open line of communication with a specific individual within the firm (a mentor or the firm’s ‘mental health ambassador’, for instance). A regular meeting between the apprentice and that individual can go a long way to avoid difficulties and stress escalating. In short: look after your young apprentices. Help them to manage their time effectively and equip them with the confidence to speak up.

Firms taking on solicitor apprentices are investing in the future of the firm and the next generation of solicitors. For these reasons, consider talking to firms who already have apprentices and learn from them before taking on your first cohort of apprentices.

The Law Society’s website offers useful information for firms about the apprenticeship route. On it, you will find a useful article by Chester-based firm, Hillyer McKeown, busting three myths it has identified about solicitor apprentices.

The Society has also published new case studies about apprenticeships in the legal sector, from the perspective of the firms and apprentices themselves.



Back to the SOLICITORS group News

Media Centre

“The Solicitors Group online directory is an established and respected channel for legal professionals, meaning I can talk to my existing and future customers about products and services both quickly and easily.”

Carole Hatton
Marketing Manager
Landmark Information Group

“Reaching our niche market can sometimes be challenging, however we find promoting our legal training courses on an excellent way of contacting both existing and new customers. The service we receive from The Solicitors Group is both professional and relevant to our core activities and we would recommend their services to others.”


“I must say that to date we have been very pleased with the referrals we are getting from your site.”

Paul West
Orchid Cellmark

“The Newsdesk feature on is ideal for us. Its prominent location on the site provides a great platform to communicate key messages to existing and potential clients.”

Neil Phillips
Marketing Manager
Countrywide Legal Indemnities

"We are very happy with the referrals we are getting from The Solicitors Group web-site."

C.A. Bishop
Technical Director
Wickham Laboratories Ltd

“We received 419 click-throughs to our site from advertising with”

Legal Prospects

“Putting myself in my potential client's shoes, I consider to offer perhaps the clearest and most user-friendly listing of expert witnesses, especially in its choice of index terms.”

Ivan Vince
ASK Consultants

“The banner ad looks great”

Samantha Dawson
The Bundle Business Limited

“The Solicitors Group has been fantastic in helping us to raise awareness about bowel cancer, which kills 16,000 people every year in the UK. Bowel Cancer UK aims to save lives by raising awareness of bowel cancer, campaigning for best treatment and care and providing practical support and advice. Without the support of organisations such as the Solicitors Group we would be unable to carry out this vital work. We are very grateful to the team at the Solicitors Group for their support and assistance.”

Tamara Matthews
Legacy Officer
Bowel Cancer UK

“As a result of Law London, we have registered 208 new companies/firms to the website, generating £20,797 GWP to date, as well as reinforcing our presence in this very profitable marketplace.”


“The event was well put together and executed, and the traffic of potential customers for us was high. We had a number of enquiries regarding our services after the event and we feel our attendance there was important to our overall brand exposure. We feel a Law event of this size without Euromoney Legal Training present could potentially be hurtful to us as a business. We would recommend you to attend and shall ourselves be there again in 2008.”


“Many thanks for the prompt service.”

Martin Gibbs MBE
Director / Investigator
Griffin Forensics Ltd

“A targeted email to key customers is an invaluable method of communication, endorse this with the Solicitors Group branding, relevant editorial content and you have created a winning combination! We look forward to reading the next edition.”

Carole Hatton
Marketing Manager
Landmark Information Group

“Talking directly to Property Lawyers is critical to us as they are key customers or potentially could be for all of our products, The Solicitors Group offer a perfect solution to get our messages right to the right people”

Carole Hatton
Marketing Manager
Landmark Information Group

“Thank you for having a useful and informative site, it is good to see a comprehensive and friendly portal.”

Stefan Fann
UK Probate Services

“Cadogans aims to keep its brand image in front of lawyers who may be looking for engineering experts. A check on Google analytics showed that referrals to our website from The Solicitors Group website were above average.”

Daphne Wassermann
Technical Director