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The Oracle

Apprenticeship or university?

updated on 05 February 2024

Dear Oracle

I’m considering starting a legal apprenticeship, but are the career prospects the same as the university route? What are the main differences between a paralegal/solicitor apprenticeship and going to university?

The Oracle replies

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Your question is answered in more detail in The Law Apprenticeships Guide, which we highly recommend reading before making your decision. Broadly, if you’re interested in the solicitors’ profession, there’s no difference in terms of career prospects between doing an apprenticeship or the traditional university route. In fact, at least 17 firms have agreed to a Legal Apprenticeship Pledge to demonstrate to aspiring solicitors “that the legal apprenticeship route is no less valuable than a traditional route to qualification”.

You can read more about this in our LCN Says: ‘What’s the difference between a solicitor and graduate apprenticeship?’.

If you want to become a barrister, you currently need to go to university. However, there have been recent conversations regarding adding an apprenticeship route to the Bar, which is expected to be launched in spring 2024.

Find out more about the journey to the Bar

Most legal apprenticeships are aimed at school leavers (and those already working as paralegals who want to gain some formal qualifications and progress in their careers) as an alternative to university. The high cost of going to university is certainly a reason why people might consider an alternative, while others prefer to get straight into their careers and develop skills within a work environment.

There are several types of legal apprenticeship, all of which involve on-the-job training at a law firm. The different pathways can lead to qualifying as a solicitor or chartered legal executive, as well as a job as a paralegal. If you do a six-year solicitor apprenticeship, you’ll also gain a law degree.

Some firms have also recently introduced the graduate solicitor apprenticeship, which takes between two to three years to complete and is aimed at individuals who have a degree, or equivalent qualification.

Find out more about the graduate solicitor apprenticeship in this LCN Says.

All solicitor apprentices will now also be required to pass the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) to qualify as a solicitor.

You can find out more about the SQE via LCN’s SQE hub.

To make your choice, you should decide what type of learning and working lifestyle will suit you best over the next several years. Are you keen to start your career without delay or do you want to immerse yourself in higher education and all the great benefits that going to university has to offer for a few years (bearing in mind that you’ll likely be repaying your student loans for a long time afterwards)?

Be sure to further research and think about the type of lawyer you want to be, as well as the kind of training that best suits you.

You can see available apprenticeship positions here, and find out what trainee solicitor apprentice Maia Crockford enjoys about her apprenticeship in this LCN Says.

For more advice on choosing between an apprenticeship or university, plus all the apprenticeships info you need to get started, read The Law Apprenticeships Guide.