updated on 25 August 2020
At this early stage, it can be hard to be sure, but ask yourself some key questions as a start. Do you find legal issues interesting? Are you intrigued by the ways in which the law is part of everyday life? Is there an area (eg, crime, the environment or human rights) that has caught your attention? Are you the kind of person who would thrive in a fast-paced legal environment? The best way to really find out whether law is for you is by talking to lawyers and doing some quality work experience within the legal profession.
Several important skills are needed to be a good lawyer. Many of them are developed during your academic studies, while others become apparent in your working life – the advantage of developing them as an apprentice is that you will be doing both simultaneously. The attributes that most recruiters look for include: intellectual ability (ie, strong grades); motivation; resilience; accuracy; teamwork; leadership; commercial awareness (an interest in the business world); and communication skills. If you have the majority of these, law could be a good option for you!
No. Most firms understand that the best workforces are representative of the whole community, which means recruiting the best candidates regardless of background. Most employers have their own diversity policies to ensure that they provide a welcoming and supportive environment for people whatever their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age or socioeconomic background. In fact, legal apprentice schemes are one of the ways that firms are trying to attract and recruit a more diverse group of employees.
Many legal apprenticeships are aimed at students who want to move into a vocation after completing their GCSEs or A levels. Most legal apprentices have recently finished secondary education, but apprenticeships are also open to mature candidates (eg, those who have had a previous career).
In short, no. People do much better in subjects that they are interested in, so pursue A levels (and GCSEs) which you think you will enjoy. A level is about studying interesting subjects and developing key skills –specialist legal training comes later. Also, very few universities list A-level law as a requirement, even for those wanting to start a law degree, so it is not essential. In fact, you can become a lawyer without ever completing a law degree by choosing a non-law degree and then doing a law conversion course (eg, the Graduate Diploma in Law). Achieving good grades is important, whichever subjects you choose. Go for subjects that you enjoy and do well in to give yourself the best chance of passing with flying colours. It is much better to get As and Bs in three subjects than it is to get Bs and Cs in four, so don’t give yourself too much to do.
Your first day in any job can be intimidating but don’t worry – most firms have comprehensive induction programmes for new joiners. You may also find yourself starting on the same day as other apprentices, so there are likely to be others in the same boat. Some firms will also give you a trainee buddy or mentor to help you adjust. Be yourself, ask questions, show enthusiasm, and pretty soon you’ll feel right at home. One note on dress code: lawyers are business people and their clients expect them to look the part. While some firms are more relaxed than others, your best bet is to arrive looking very well presented. That doesn’t mean spending a fortune on tailor-made suits, but it does mean arriving on your first day dressed smartly and ready to do the job.
There is more information out there about legal apprenticeships than ever before. Individual firms/organisations will advertise on their own websites and elsewhere, including on LawCareers.Net (www.lawcareers.net). LCN has a regularly updated apprenticeship jobs board, so it is worth checking frequently for new vacancies, especially at the end of the school year. The site also has more general information about apprenticeships. Other valuable resources include the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (www.cilex.org.uk/study/apprenticeships) and the government’s apprenticeship website (www.gov.uk/apply-pprenticeship).
If you’re undecided between an apprenticeship and other routes into the legal profession, such as applying for a university place, read The Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law 2021 – the companion guide to this one. The Beginner’s Guide is your first stop for information about the university route to becoming a solicitor, barrister, legal executive or paralegal. LawCareers.Net is also a great place for information about this career path, including news, advice, features and interviews.
Your school careers service is a brilliant resource that you should definitely use. They will be able to help you with application and interview techniques, suggest places to look for information, and maybe even help you to secure informal work experience or shadowing with a law firm.