Your Ultimate Guide to a career in Legal & Law

At first glance, it might sound a bit crazy that you can become a legal professional through an apprenticeship. But it actually makes perfect sense.

Because apprenticeships offer practical hands on experience, it can be a great way to throw yourself into a challenging career, like becoming a solicitor.

See what Law Firms offer Legal Apprenticeships
Law & Legal Apprenticeships: A statue of the scales of justice

Start your legal career as an apprentice?

Are you interested in a career in law? Thanks to TV shows like Silks and Suits, you’ve probably got an idea of what a career in law would look like. It’s commonly thought that the only way into the legal sector is through university. Legal apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly common way of breaking into the industry, providing an affordable alternative to the traditional law degree.

Apprenticeships are booming thanks to government backing, with employers across the industry introducing their own schemes. For apprenticeships in law, you typically have three options. You can focus on legal administration, become a paralegal, or qualify as a solicitor if you wish to practice.

Law degrees can be expensive, typically four years in length. With a degree apprenticeship you can gain a law degree debt free, while earning a living wage. Yes, it takes a bit longer, but the commercial benefits are clear to see.

It is also possible to use an apprenticeship to become a chartered legal executive, a hybrid position between a paralegal and solicitor which focuses on a specific legal niche. 

What Apprenticeship Programmes Are Available?

There are four apprenticeship routes that you can take, ranging from a GCSE level diploma through to a level 7 legal apprenticeship, similar in content to a traditional undergraduate law degree. It is possible to continue your apprenticeship by progressing to a higher programme after completing another. For example, it is possible to go from a legal administration position to undertaking another apprenticeship to qualify as a solicitor. 

  1. A CILEx Level 2 Diploma for Legal Secretaries is a GCSE level qualification that focuses on general legal knowledge and administrative work. You can study this either part-time or full time, with generally no entry requirements, although some institutions may ask for a C in GCSE English. Although this is not a traditional apprenticeship, it’s a brilliant foundation to a level 3 qualification. From here, you can undertake a Level 3 Legal Administrator Apprenticeship.
  1. A Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship is a two-year programme. It gives you a general overview of the legal system and teaches you how to undertake research and engage with clients. Paralegals handle most of the research carried out at a law firm, so this path is ideal for anyone interested in the law but doesn’t want to practice as a solicitor. After completing this course, you can move towards a Chartered Legal Executive Apprenticeship if you’re interested in working closely with solicitors on cases.
  1. A Level 6 Chartered Legal Executive Apprenticeship is a five-year course that you can access after completing a legal apprenticeship at a paralegal level or have a level 3 diploma qualification. As a legal executive, your work will be similar to a solicitor while specialising in a particular area of law. If you wish to undertake a solicitor apprenticeship, you can usually skip modules that are covered in your level 6 apprenticeship.
  1. A Solicitor Apprenticeship is a 6-year course at level 7. It is similar in content to what you would cover in a traditional law degree at university. The main difference here is that you get paid for it’s duration, and do not have to cover course fees.

How does a law degree apprenticeship work?

If you’re interested in practising law, you’ll want to focus on a law degree apprenticeship. These are more accessible – and affordable – way of getting a law degree and can help you develop a more diverse skillset than you might get at university. The solicitor apprenticeship was introduced in 2016, and there are now countless legal firms that take part in it. If you want to work while you study, then a legal degree apprenticeship is the perfect choice for you.

The major difference between solicitor apprenticeships and traditional law degrees is that you’ll spend most of your time at a law firm. You’ll gain practical hands-on experience that can help to build commercial awareness and client engagement skills. Unlike the typical university student, you’ll be studying part-time, which is why solicitor apprenticeships take between five to six years to complete. 

You will probably attend some classes at your educational institution one day a week, as well as working online. You can expect an 80:20 split between the time you spend working at your firm and the time you spend studying.

As a solicitor apprentice, you’ll be immersed in the legal world in a way that university students are not. You’ll work directly with clients, carry out research for active cases, assist with legal documents, attend court cases and work on administrative tasks. 

What are the typical entry requirements for a law apprenticeships?

The entry requirements will depend on your preferred legal apprenticeship. It is possible to start a legal apprenticeship after leaving school at any stage, but you will be restricted on which levels you can access. 

For those looking to work in legal services without A-Level qualifications, you can start with a Level 2 or Level 3 course and work your way up. If you want to take part in a higher-level legal apprenticeship, you may be required to complete a Level 3 Diploma for Legal Service in advance. 

If you’ve got A-Level qualifications, you can look at applying for a solicitor apprenticeship. These legal apprenticeships will typically require at least 5 GCSEs with 3 A-Levels above a grade C, although ABB is the average requirement. You can also complete a Level 3 paralegal apprenticeship and then move onto a solicitor apprenticeship.

Legal apprenticeships have revolutionized the pathway into the world of law. Now you can qualify as a solicitor without going to university, and you can work while learning on the job. You can also use a legal apprenticeship as a non-university path to other legal careers such as legal administrative work and paralegal work. If you’re thinking of a career in law, apprenticeships in law are a practical alternative to attending university.

What Law Firms Offer Legal Apprenticeships?

While other students are applying for university, you’ll be looking out for law firms who are offering legal apprenticeship opportunities. As the government encourages more apprenticeships, you can expect to see more law firms offering apprenticeships in the coming years.

Not all law firms will offer the same legal apprenticeship opportunities, so you must narrow your search depending on the qualification you want. Addleshaw Goddard offers paralegal and solicitor apprenticeship schemes in partnership with the BPP University Law School in Leeds and Manchester. Other law firms will offer only solicitor apprenticeships. CMS is a London-based international law firm that provides a six-year solicitor apprenticeship in partnership with the University of Law. 

When you’re searching for a legal apprenticeship, consider the portfolio that legal firms have. If you’re opting for a solicitor apprenticeship, you’ll be working in this area so make sure you pick something you’re comfortable with.