Apprenticeships provide the opportunity to ‘earn as you learn’ from experienced colleagues. Many employers will provide funding to support the costs of training during your apprenticeship, so you can benefit from a zero-cost route to qualification, plus a salary
Considering a legal apprenticeship?
Legal apprenticeships are available in many settings and for roles including a solicitor, a paralegal, a chartered legal executive and for those working in legal administration. Legal apprenticeships are available at pre-degree, degree and graduate levels. They are not just for school leavers - those thinking of a career change can still earn a living. Academic ability is essential, but different roles will demand different levels of academic ability.
You do not have to hold a degree to start an apprenticeship but you will be expected to study on and off the job to progress. Around 80% of your time will be spent in the office, with 20% in the classroom.
Apprenticeships are open to those without legal experience, but also to those with existing experience and skills, such as paralegals and legal administrators/secretaries.
You can find these roles in large City law firms and large corporations such as the BBC, alongside government departments and smaller firms. You can also choose to do a solicitor apprenticeship through a participating law school with industry links.
Solicitor apprenticeships in England are currently only available for those who have an eligible residency status and the right to work in England. There are currently no solicitor apprenticeships in Wales or Scotland.
How long does it take to qualify?
A solicitor apprenticeship at level 7 can last 6-7 years, during which time they will qualify as a level 3 paralegal - see paralegal apprenticeship below.
These vary among employers but the minimum standard is 5 GCSEs including Maths and English and 3 A levels, all at grade C or above, or equivalent qualifications or work experience.
You can choose to apply to start a solicitor apprenticeship after A levels (or equivalent) but you may also consider it as a route to take as part of a career change later in life, balancing work and study with other commitments.
They are open to those without legal experience, post A-level, but also to those with existing experience and skills, such as paralegals and chartered legal executives. The period of study is reduced for those who progress from other legal apprenticeships. Those with a non-law degree may also apply for this route, or the graduate solicitor apprenticeship route. Law graduates may only apply for the graduate solicitor apprenticeships - see below.
Apprenticeship study covers all the content in a law degree and on completion, apprentices will gain a level 7 qualification - a law degree and LLM (Masters).
Assessment to become a solicitor via the apprentice route will be by the SQE.
Graduate solicitor apprenticeships
These are also available for those who already have an undergraduate degree in any subject, accessed directly through firms or via participating law schools. Employers will specify their own entry requirements which may include a GDL/law conversion for those with a non-law degree. These apprenticeships tend to be shorter in length (usually less than 3 years), but the end point assessment will remain the SQE. Search online for graduate solicitor apprenticeship to find out about available vacancies.
Solicitor apprenticeship guidance
The websites below provide further guidance on solicitor apprenticeships if you are interested in learning more about qualifying through this route.
Chartered Legal Executive apprenticeship
CILEX offers a range of qualifications for those in the legal sector, including level 2 and 3 certificates/diplomas for legal secretaries and level 3 paralegal apprenticeships. This section focuses on the Chartered Legal Executive level 6 apprenticeship.
How long does it take to qualify?
Chartered Legal Executive apprentices will complete level 3 and level 6 qualifications as part of the apprenticeship. After completing the level 3 qualification (see paralegal apprenticeship below), it will take two years to complete the level 6 Diploma, or 9-15 months to complete the Graduate Fast-track Diploma for those already with a law degree/Graduate Diploma in Law. Apprentices must also undertake three years work experience under supervision of a chartered legal executive, solicitor or barrister.
Those who hold a level 3 qualification, or have studied law at degree level, or have a Graduate Diploma in Law can begin the level 6 qualification.
Either the two-year level 6 professional diploma in law and practice (if you have completed the level three professional diploma) or nine-15-month Graduate Fast-track Diploma (if you have studied a law degree or GDL). You will then be known as a Graduate Member of CILEX.
After successful completion of the apprenticeship, you will be able to work as a Chartered Legal Executive.
Note: CILEX is introducing a new qualification - the CILEX Professional Qualification (CPQ) - so existing trainees should take note of transition arrangements.
Paralegal apprentices can work for large law firms, solicitors, for charities and not-for-profit organisations and in government. They can support a legal team including undertaking research, producing drafts of legal documents for their supervisors and liaising with clients, as well as day to day legal office administration. The specifics of the role will vary from firm to firm.
How long does it take to qualify?
A level 3 paralegal apprenticeship lasts two years.
Usually a minimum of 5 GCSEs including Maths and English and 3 A levels, all at grade C or above, or equivalent qualifications or work experience.
You can choose to apply to start a paralegal apprenticeship after A levels (or equivalent) but you may also consider it as a route to take as part of a career change later in life, balancing work and study with other commitments.
Those already working as paralegals, legal administrators or legal secretaries may want to begin a paralegal apprenticeship. There will be competition for paralegal roles from those wanting to follow the pathway to qualify as solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives, rather than seeing a paralegal qualification as an end point.
Successful completion of a paralegal apprenticeship gives you a level 3 qualification. A paralegal can progress on to complete a level 6 qualification as a CILEx apprentice or a level 7 qualification as a solicitor apprentice - see CILEx and solicitor apprenticeships above.
After successful completion of the apprenticeship, you will be able to work as a qualified paralegal.
Where can I find apprenticeship opportunities?
The websites below are a good place to start if you are looking for an apprenticeship.
Depending on what you are seeking, useful search terms include case administration, conveyancer, compliance and risk, chartered legal executive, legal, paralegal, probate, solicitor.
Legal apprenticeship guides
Explore the additional resources below for further information about apprenticeships