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You don’t have to go to university to start a career in the legal profession. Legal apprentices train on the job at law firms to eventually become solicitors, chartered legal executives or paralegals, without the tuition fees and accommodation costs involved with going to university. Some apprenticeships take 18 months to complete, but the more advanced levels provide training over five or six years – around the same amount of time as it would take to qualify through the university route.
University tuition and maintenance loans are available and you don’t have to start paying them back until you are in a job paying at least £21,000 a year, so high fees should not necessarily put you off higher education, but there are many reasons why you might decide that going to university is not right for you.
This section is a basic introduction to legal apprenticeships. To learn more, you should read The Law Apprenticeships Guide 2018, which explains everything you need to know about the different types of apprenticeship. Pick up a free copy from your school or read it online at www.lawcareers.net.
Am I eligible?
To become a legal apprentice, you must be 16 or over, not in full-time education and a UK citizen/someone who has right of residency in the United Kingdom. You must also not be a university graduate. Most legal apprenticeships require five GCSEs (or equivalent) graded A*- C, including maths and English. The Paralegal Apprenticeship also requires two A levels graded C or above, while the Solicitor Apprenticeship requires three A levels graded C or above.
Earn and learn
The minimum wage for a legal apprentice is £3.50 (as of 1 April 2017 ) an hour for people aged under 19, as well as for people aged over 19 who are in the first year of their apprenticeship. All other apprentices over the age of 19 are entitled to the National Minimum Wage.
There are currently four separate levels of legal apprenticeship.
The intermediate Apprenticeship provides training in a legal administrative role. Such roles involve administrative tasks such as research, secretarial work and dealing with confidential information.
The paralegal apprenticeship trains apprentices in the skills needed to work in a certain area of law (eg, personal injury) – paralegals support solicitors on legal matters and do many of the same tasks. Find out more about paralegals on the next page.
Chartered legal executive apprenticeship
This programme trains apprentices to qualify as chartered legal executives, a type of lawyer that is similar to a solicitor. Candidates must first complete the Paralegal Apprenticeship before progressing onto this.
This apprenticeship is a six-year programme which integrates studying for a law degree with on-the-job training at a law firm, ending in qualification as a solicitor – a role which was previously reserved for those who took the traditional university route.