The Law Apprenticeships Guide 2021

If you are weighing up whether to go to university or move straight into your career with an apprenticeship after finishing your GCSEs or A levels, The Law Apprenticeships Guide 2021 is here to help.



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Five key things to know about a legal apprenticeship

You don’t need a university degree as you progress straight from your GCSEs or A levels to your apprenticeship.

You earn while you learn. You receive a salary while working as an apprentice, at the same time as studying.

You can apply for an apprenticeship through LawCareers.Net: there is a comprehensive and searchable jobs board of current vacancies in ‘The Law Apprenticeships Guide’ section of

You can work in a law firm, private company or local government as many different types of organisation employ legal apprentices.

You will qualify as a solicitor, legal executive or paralegal: various apprenticeship options enable you to become different types of lawyer.

Find out more in the rest of the guide.


How do I decide whether a law apprenticeship is for me? This guide helps you to:

If you are deciding whether to go to university after leaving school or start your career as a lawyer straight away with an apprenticeship, The Law Apprenticeships Guide 2021 can help. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about the legal profession or apprenticeships – this guide is designed to give you the information you need before you choose your next step. What is a law apprenticeship? A law apprenticeship combines paid work and training at a law firm with part-time study. It is an alternative path to going to university that offers the same career destinations but avoids the expensive fees.

• compare university and apprenticeship paths so you can understand what each offers; • learn about the different types of apprenticeship and where they lead; • find out more about what it’s like to work as a legal apprentice; and • check that you have the key skills needed for a law apprenticeship. Where can I find out more? Go to – you will find a jobs board where new apprenticeship vacancies are frequently posted, plus detailed information on apprenticeships and every other possible career path offered by the UK legal profession.

Legal apprenticeships enable young people to get onto a fulfilling and rewarding career path without the cost of going to university. Our apprentices are valued members of the firm, applying what they learn to real, practical work as they increase in confidence, responsibility and independence on the path to becoming fully qualified lawyers. Danielle White, Senior graduate recruitment and development manager, Mayer Brown International LLP

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Apprenticeship v university

University is the right path for some people because it offers the chance to study an interesting subject in detail and gain a valuable degree that opens up career options. University can also be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, filled with opportunities for getting involved in new things and meeting life-long friends. On the other hand, an apprenticeship offers a more direct path to those same career options, without the costs of going to university or the same intense competition for places. Apprenticeships are also perfect for people who are not keen on more full-time study after finishing their A levels and want to kick- start their careers.

It is important to remember that in the legal profession, you can have the same career whether you choose university or an apprenticeship, which means that your choice is not so much about where you end up, but how you get there – some apprenticeships even involve gaining a university degree. Law apprenticeships lead to three possible careers – solicitor, legal executive or paralegal. All three are also available if you choose to go to university. Find out more about what being a solicitor, legal executive or paralegal involves on pages 4 and 5 in “Career paths”. Meanwhile, this table explains some of the key differences between an apprenticeship and going to university.

Qualifications Apprenticeship


Professional qualifications to become a solicitor, legal executive or paralegal. Completing the solicitor apprenticeship also involves gaining a law degree.

A university degree in one of hundreds of possible subjects which is widely recognised. For a career in law, a university degree in any subject makes you eligible for the postgraduate professional courses you must complete to become a solicitor, legal executive, paralegal or barrister.

Cost Apprenticeship


None to the apprentice – the costs of apprenticeships are covered by the

With tuition fees standing at over £9,000 a year and living costs on top of that, many students leave university in tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of debt.

government and employers, while apprentices themselves are paid at least the apprentices’ National MinimumWage.

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Duration Apprenticeship


Eighteen to 24 months for the intermediate apprenticeship, 24 months for the paralegal apprenticeship and six years for the solicitor apprenticeship. It takes around five years to qualify as a legal executive.

Undergraduate degrees usually last three to four years.

Work experience Apprenticeship


Full-time work in a law firm or the legal department of a company or other organisation.

Optional work placements and internships – students interested in law should apply for work experience at law firms.

Social life Apprenticeship


As an apprentice working and studying full time, you may miss out on some social opportunities that come with going to university, such as the chance to meet new friends among students from all over the world and enjoy all the experiences that university has to offer. However, offices often have great socialising cultures too, with plenty of activities to get involved with, and you are bound to make good friends.

The opportunities for socialising at university are fantastic. From the societies covering everything from political debating to cheerleading, to the thriving music, arts and social scenes at most universities, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Career prospects Apprenticeship


Both law apprentices and university graduates can pursue a career as a solicitor, legal executive or paralegal.

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Apprenticeship career paths


A level

Intermediate apprenticeship

Paralegal apprenticeship


Chartered legal executive apprenticeship

Solicitor apprenticeship

Legal executive


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GCSE The foundation of your career and the essential first step – good grades are vital if you want to progress in your legal career.

also integrates a law degree, obtained at the end of the fourth year. Apprentices learn law and legal practice alongside gaining competence in legal skills, commercial skills and professional conduct. Paralegal Paralegals have traditionally worked alongside solicitors in law firms as support staff, but in practice many paralegals do the same work as solicitors – although this is almost always for lower pay. Whether you become a paralegal through an apprenticeship or secure a job as a paralegal after graduating from university, it is possible to progress onto qualifying as a solicitor, legal executive or a more senior paralegal role. CILEx chartered legal executive A legal executive is another type of lawyer who is trained to specialise as an expert in one particular area of law. Within that specialism, the job of a legal executive is very similar to that of a solicitor – legal executives advise clients, draft documents and conduct research to find solutions to problems. Solicitor Solicitors provide advice and assistance on legal matters. They are the first point of contact for people and organisations (eg, companies and charities) seeking legal advice and representation. Solicitors may work in very different areas of law, but the fundamentals of the job remain largely the same. These include meeting and advising clients on their legal problems, doing legal research to find solutions, drafting important documents such as contracts or wills, and occasionally representing clients at tribunals or in court.

A level The academic stage between GCSE and

university or the beginning of a paralegal/solicitor apprenticeship. Again, good grades are essential.

Intermediate apprenticeship The intermediate apprenticeship is aimed at school leavers who have not done A levels. Entry requirements are five GCSEs graded 9-4 (A* to C) or equivalent. Apprentices will develop skills to assist in the progression of cases on an administrative level. It is usually a 15-21 month course. Paralegal apprenticeship The paralegal apprenticeship delivers paralegal training in a particular legal practice area. Entry requirements are five GCSEs graded 9-4 (A* to C) and three A levels graded C or above (or equivalent). It is a 24-month course. It can lead on to further training via the solicitor apprenticeship route to qualify as a solicitor. It is also possible to go on to qualify as a chartered legal executive, although smaller numbers of paralegals take this route. Solicitor apprenticeship The solicitor apprenticeship is a six-year programme of paid, on-the-job training ending in qualification as a solicitor. The entry requirements are five GCSEs graded 9-4 (A* to C) and three A levels (minimum grades vary among employers from CCC – AAB) or equivalent work experience. The apprenticeship

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Meet the apprentice

Chris Howes Mayer Brown International LLP

Chris is in the second year of the solicitor apprenticeship programme at Mayer Brown International LLP.

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

I had previously considered a career in law and this apprenticeship was a good compromise between work and education. At the time that I began applying, I had been out of education for a year and didn’t feel that I wanted to go back into an environment that was entirely focused on academia, or that a traditional university experience was the right option for me. An apprenticeship seemed like a good opportunity to get a degree, work and make a positive and tangible difference.

What is a typical day at work like?

One of the big positives of undertaking the solicitor apprenticeship at Mayer Brown is that we change seats every six months. As a result, the work is very varied and it’s difficult to describe a typical day. I currently work in the pensions team and undertake a wide variety of different tasks. I conduct a lot of legal research, looking through legislation and documents to try and find the answers to questions and/or problems posed by clients. A lot of my work also involves drafting emails and other correspondence, as well as producing articles and updates that are distributed to clients and other interested parties. I also try to take an active role within the life of the firm; I am currently sitting on the firm’s Charity Partners and NextGen committees, and getting involved with pro bono and corporate social responsibility work.

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How have you found juggling work with your study days?

As apprentices, we have one day a week out of the office, on which we attend online lectures. We also have preparation and consolidation work that must be completed around those lectures. I’m managing well with the studying aspect of the programme so far and have not yet had to study outside of that day a great deal, except when I’ve had upcoming exams or coursework deadlines. I am conscious that as the demands of work and the course increase, it might become more difficult to balance the two – although I am pleasantly surprised with how it’s turned out so far.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of being an apprentice?

It’s been very enjoyable studying areas at university that I have already come across at work. I learn best through doing things and my job brings classroom topics, such as the theory of contract, to life in a practical way. The fact that we rotate around the firm also gives us the chance to build really strong relationships with people in different practice areas, which is great on both a professional and a personal level.

What advice would you give to anyone considering an apprenticeship?

It’s a big commitment. It’s important to keep motivated and focused on the end goal, while making the most of what you’re doing throughout the six years of the apprenticeship. In addition, make sure that you fully research each firm’s individual apprenticeship programme before applying – they’re not all the same! One of the major advantages of an apprenticeship at Mayer Brown is that we rotate every six months and are exposed to a wide variety of skills and areas of law. However, at other firms you might stay in the same area for four years. You should think about what you want in a job and what you want to spend the next six years doing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to gain a greater understanding of what the programme entails. Above all though, a solicitor apprenticeship is a great opportunity – embrace and make the most of it!

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Meet the apprentice

Holly Moore ITV

Holly Moore is a fifth-year solicitor apprentice, currently in the ITV Network Legal and Business Affairs team at ITV. She will move around the business, with three one-year seats (a seat is a period of training in a particular department), four six- month seats, and two six-month seats at law firms.

How did you find out about/research the legal apprenticeship route?

I always knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I didn’t want to go to university full time and I did want to gain some practical work experience. I searched everywhere for alternative routes – I relied heavily on the government careers website, CILEx and LawCareers.Net for information. I first read about paralegal apprenticeships, but then discovered the solicitor apprenticeship. It was the ideal combination of going to university to gain the correct qualifications, with the added benefit of six years’ work experience and no university debt!

What about the route appealed?

I get to apply the modules I’m studying at university in a very immediate way. For example, I studied contract law in my first year and every day at work I draft and negotiate a variety of contracts. I’m using my knowledge as I learn it, rather than having to wait for five years to apply it! Plus, working at ITV has been perfect for me – it offers everything I was looking for, including both in-house and private practice experience.

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What do you do day to day?

I’m currently with the ITV Network team, which is the broadcasting arm of ITV. I work mainly on development and commissioning agreements with both internal and external producers across all genres, such as entertainment, factual and drama. I draft and negotiate these contracts, with the support of senior lawyers when necessary. Much of what I do is the same level of work as the trainees, which feels great and really rewarding.

What do you most enjoy – and find the most challenging – about your apprenticeship?

The most enjoyable part is working in a friendly and creative environment – it is fast-paced and challenging, and there is so much variety in the people I work with and the work I do; every day is different. There’s always a new show, contract or discussion and I’m involved with all of that, and learning what goes into creating a show, from start to finish. I also love studying all areas of law at uni! The challenge is taking on a lot of responsibility at a young age; I came straight into this role after taking my A levels. It encouraged me to gain a level of maturity; you have to manage your own workload and study, and ensure that you balance that with your life outside work. It doesn’t undermine how much I love it, though – I would choose the exact same route if given the choice again. I am very lucky to have a supportive team around me.

What is your best piece of advice for those considering applying for a legal apprenticeship?

Do lots of research into the different routes. There are new apprenticeships becoming available all the time, so you need to seek that information out. And if you think that it might be right for you, then you have to engage fully; you can’t go into it in a half-hearted way. It requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice in terms of time – it’s very different to full-time uni! It can be tough, because of the amount that you’re juggling, but it’s worth it and also has the advantage of being paid! Talk to careers advisers, email firms, talk to your teachers; the more research you do, the more you’ll be certain that it’s something you want to pursue.

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Key questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about legal apprenticeships.

How do I know if law is the right career for me? At this early stage, it can be hard to be sure, but ask yourself

Haven’t all lawyers been to private schools and Oxbridge? No. Most firms understand that

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. What skills and strengths do you need to be a good lawyer? 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!

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.

Who can become an apprentice?

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).

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Do I have to study A-level law to be an apprentice? In short, no. People do much better in subjects that they are

What do I need to know about my first day at work? Your first day in any job can be intimidating but don’t worry –

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.

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.

Should I go to my careers service? 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.

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Key questions

 Where can I find details of apprenticeship vacancies and how do I apply? There is more information out there about legal apprenticeships

 What if I might prefer the traditional route? If you’re undecided between an apprenticeship and other routes into the legal profession, such

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. and the government’s apprenticeship website (

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.

On LawCareers.Net you’ll find:

A directory of over 1,000 law firms, barristers’ chambers and legal educators

A range of videos

Blog posts from law students

Features providing information and advice about pursuing a legal career

Personalised careers advice via The Oracle

Profiles of lawyers and recruiters

Tips and articles to boost your commercial awareness

The latest legal news

Find us on:

If you would like more copies of The Law Apprenticeships Guide 2021 or its companion publication, The Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law 2021 , please contact

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A law apprenticeship combines an interesting job and training at a law firm with part-time study. This means hard work, but the rewards are well worth it. Here is a checklist of the necessary skills and what you must do to get off to a flying start as a legal apprentice. Your legal apprenticeship skills checklist: Good written and verbal communication skills. Solicitors, paralegals and legal executives advise people in person, over the phone and in emails and letters, so writing and speaking with confidence is important. Attention to detail. This is one of the cornerstones of the legal profession, so it is essential that you take a careful and meticulous approach to all of the work that you produce as an apprentice, checking and rechecking as you go. Good interpersonal and customer service skills. As an apprentice you will meet a wide range of different people, from colleagues in your organisation to clients who need one of your legal services. You must be friendly, enthusiastic and professional, even with difficult clients. The ability to work well as part of a team. Solicitors and the other types of lawyer found in law firms rarely work alone. A law firm is one big team divided into smaller teams with different areas of expertise who help each other out, so as an apprentice you will constantly be working closely with others. Being a team player is essential. Strong organisational skills. Apprentices must stay on top of multiple tasks and be able to prioritise and meet deadlines. They also must balance their law firm role with studying part time, so it is important to work hard and be organised. A strong academic track record. Law is an intellectually rigorous and demanding profession. Employers will be looking for evidence of both a good brain and a strong work ethic, so work hard at getting the best results you possibly can during your GCSEs and A levels (if applicable).

A desire to learn. Although a law apprenticeship offers a great opportunity to get straight onto a fulfilling career path after leaving school, the learning has only just begun once you join a law firm as an apprentice. You will be training and studying to become an expert legal professional, so enthusiasm to learn more is a must.

Our six-year programme allows you to study for an LLB degree in Legal Practice, build your career and become a qualified solicitor whilst working and earning without having to pay the university fees. Solicitor Apprenticeship Programme 2021. “I amenjoyingmy time at the firmandmy experience in four different departments so far has allowedme to develop a wide range of skills. I look forward to progressing to the final year of my degree and continuingmy seat rotations throughout the firm” Sydney Lee, third year solicitor apprentice London | Cheltenham | Guildford | Bahrain | Doha | Dubai | Geneva | Hong Kong | Luxembourg | Paris | Zurich Charles Russell Speechlys LLP @CRS_Trainees crstrainees

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