updated on 24 August 2023
At this early stage, it can be hard to be sure, but ask yourself some key questions as a starting point. 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’s caught your attention? Are you the kind of person who’d thrive in a fast-paced legal environment? The best way to find out whether law is for you is by talking to lawyers and doing some quality work experience in the 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’ll be doing both simultaneously. The attributes that most recruiters look for include: intellectual ability; motivation; accuracy; teamwork; leadership; commercial awareness (ie, 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. 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, for example.
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’ve had a previous career) and graduates (ie, graduate solicitor apprenticeships).
In short, no. People do much better in subjects that they’re interested in, so pursue A levels (and GCSEs) you think you’ll enjoy. A levels are about studying subjects you find interesting 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’s not essential. In fact, you can become a lawyer without ever completing a law degree by choosing a non-law degree and then completing a law conversion course. 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’s much better to get As and Bs in three subjects than 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 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 well presented. That doesn’t mean spending a fortune on tailor-made outfits, but it does mean arriving on your first day dressed smartly and ready to do the job.
There’s 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. LCN has a regularly updated apprenticeship jobs board, so it’s worth checking frequently for new vacancies, especially at the end of the school year. The site also has more general information about apprenticeships on our Apprenticeships hub, sponsored by Mayer Brown International LLP. Other valuable resources include the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and the government’s apprenticeship page.
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 – 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.
Your school careers service is a brilliant resource that you should use. They can help you with application and interview techniques, suggest places to look for information, and even help you to secure informal work experience or shadowing with a law firm.
Read 'Five ways your university careers service can help you ace the law recruitment process' for more advice.