Everything you need to know about legal apprenticeships

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Working in law is a fast-paced and interesting career, where you’ll use your problem-solving skills and lateral thinking to help people and businesses. 

But bagging yourself a successful law career usually means going to university and building up tons of debt. One alternative is to do a legal apprenticeship. You’ll earn a salary while you learn and gain experience. You could even become a fully qualified solicitor.

In this guide we’ll talk you through:

  • What legal apprenticeships are.
  • Legal apprenticeships for 16 year olds.
  • Solicitor degree apprenticeships.
  • The skills you need for a career in law.

What are legal apprenticeships?

A legal apprenticeship lets you study for a formal legal qualification at a law school. At the same time, you’ll learn by actually doing the job, most likely at a law firm or at a company’s legal team. You’ll earn a salary and won’t gather the debt of university fees.

You can apply straight from school, and there are even legal apprenticeships for 16 year olds. It’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll be going directly into a challenging full-time job, and won’t have the long summer holidays that university students have.

A legal apprenticeship means studying and working at
the same time

Depending on the apprenticeship you choose, you could be working in criminal, family, property or employment law.

So what are the different types of legal apprenticeships? 

Here we’ll look at what kinds of roles you can train in as a legal apprentice:

Paralegal 

Paralegals prepare legal documents, do research and give legal advice. With this apprenticeship, you’ll grow legal and business skills on the job, while studying for a qualification and will qualify as a chartered legal executive.

Legal apprenticeships for 16 year olds are available in the paralegal field. These are known as advanced or level 3 apprenticeships, and on a programme like this, you could train in roles such as paralegal officer, paralegal assistant, legal advisor or junior paralegal. The higher level is usually open to those with A-level qualifications or equivalent, and you could train as a senior paralegal or senior legal officer.

The way your apprenticeship works will vary depending on your employer. For example, you could study for one day per week, learning about the structure of the law. During the other four days, you could work as part of a team of paralegals, assisting lawyers. You’ll have your own supervisor and mentor to help you develop.

Depending on the area of law your paralegal apprenticeship is in, your duties could include managing client records; reviewing documents; helping with gathering files for lawyers to use in court; carrying out legal research; dealing with confidential information; working in a team to keep on top of tasks.

Legal administrator

Legal administrators help lawyers and law firms with cases – but their expertise is administrative, not legal. A legal administrator apprenticeship usually lasts between 12 and 14 months.

Your tasks might include organising files; taking phone calls and answering clients’ questions; copying, printing and sorting emails and documents; updating databases.

Solicitor

There’s now a new apprenticeship where you can train to become a fully qualified solicitor, while learning and earning on the job. First, check out this video to learn about a day in the life of a solicitor:

The challenging degree apprenticeship programme lasts for between five and six years. (This apprenticeship is mainly for school-leavers, but if you’re a university graduate or already have another legal apprenticeship, the programme will be shorter). You need five GCSEs and three A-levels at grade C or above to apply.

You will work full-time and study part-time, working towards an level 6 qualification, the equivalent of a degree (it could even include an LLB, or bachelor of law degree). You'll then complete the Legal Practice Course, the vocational qualification that you need to practise law as a solicitor.

You will develop an in-depth technical knowledge of the law as well as gain crucial workplace skills including: how to manage your own workload, communicate effectively, think critically, solve problems, and negotiate successfully.

Your tasks could include:

  • Interviewing and providing legal advice to clients.
  • Negotiating solutions to your clients’ problems.
  • Carry out legal research.
  • Write legal documents and forms, and check them for quality.
  • Create “bundles” for use in court – those are a collection of files relating to a particular case that will be used by the judge, witnesses and anyone else involved in the case.

What skills do I need? 

Again, depending on which of the above apprenticeships you’re interested in, the required skills vary. But the qualities and abilities you’ll need could include:

  • Communication.
  • Organisation. 
  • Accuracy and attention to detail.
  • Able to take initiative and work on your own.
  • Time management.
  • Keen interest in the law.
  • Enthusiastic and very highly motivated.
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Flexible and hard-working.

Does a legal apprenticeship sound like the right path for you? Find out more about careers in the law by checking out our Law Career Zone.

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Main image by alvaro_cabrera via Freepik

Law books via Wikimedia

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