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What does a solicitor apprentice do?

What does a solicitor apprentice do?

The Rookie Lawyer


Reading time: three minutes

If you'd like to become a solicitor but are entirely uninterested in the traditional route (university, Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) and training contract), another form of qualifying work experience (QWE) that may appeal to you is the role of a solicitor apprentice (sounds kind of fancy, I know!). With the aim of making legal careers more widely accessible, an apprenticeship allows you to 'earn while you learn' in other words, become a paid employee at a law firm (or in-house legal team). In this article, we'll take a look at what solicitor apprenticeships entail, what they offer, and how they differ from other routes to qualifying.

As a solicitor apprentice, you'd be engaging in a combination of paid legal work and part-time study (eg, 1-2 days at college and the rest of the week working at a firm). Study would involve core, foundational legal modules, such as criminal, tort and contract law meaning you may miss out on the more niche modules offered by most universities (such as IP law or cyber law). Like the more traditional university path, an apprenticeship offers the same outcome (the ability to qualify as a solicitor) but avoids some of the downsides  such as the expensive university fees  while also placing the apprentice within a professional legal network from which their career can then take off. Both, however, will typically take around the same amount of time: apprenticeships for school leavers often take around 5-6 years to complete. Additionally, the common denominator in either route is the SQE  becoming an apprentice doesn't  allow you to bypass that crucial step to qualifying as a solicitor. However, apprenticeships do offer a method of learning and practising the law, providing an alternative to training contracts or other legal experience.

For those who already have a law degree, or have completed a conversion course, you can complete what's known as a graduate apprenticeship. These apprenticeships, which take 2-3 years to complete, are available to individuals who've already obtained a law degree or completed legal training such as the Legal Practice Course (LPC). You can typically apply to these in your final year of university, and work around your subsequent studies for the SQE (or LPC) to fulfil the QWE requirement.

Find out more about the differences between solicitor and graduate apprenticeships in this LCN Says.

So, what does being an apprentice typically involve? Much like a trainee solicitor, you'll be getting to grips with the foundations of a solicitor's role:

  • researching cases;
  • drafting legal documents;
  • supporting and interviewing clients; and
  • the occasional administrative task.

The primary differences between being a trainee or an apprentice, then, are the financial and temporal considerations – all of which depend upon where you're at in your legal journey. If you're still in school, and figure that it's worth missing out on the more social and academic experiences you may gain at university in favour of gaining paid legal experience, an apprenticeship at a firm might just be for you. If you're in your final year of your law degree (or conversion course), and want to pick up some experience to contribute towards your QWE while studying for the SQE  and are uninterested in or unable to apply for training contracts – consider applying for a graduate apprenticship.

Personally, as someone on the cusp of beginning her law conversion course, I'm still undecided as to what route is best for me. What I do know, however, is that regardless of which route I take, whether I'm a trainee, apprentice, paralegal or something else entirely, I look forward to gaining some real, valuable experience in an exciting, ever-changing field. 

Head to LCN's Apprenticeship hub for information on all the different types of legal apprenticeships available.