Home Business & Industry Why Legal Apprenticeships Are Good for Everyone

Why Legal Apprenticeships Are Good for Everyone

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Apprenticeships were started in England by the Statute of Artificers in 1563. While the popularity of apprenticeships declined in the early 1900s, they have seen a resurgence thanks to the introduction of modern apprenticeships in 1992, providing more opportunities for school leavers in a wider variety of careers. Even this has been expanded and improved upon over subsequent years and today we have apprenticeships at all levels, from Level 2 to Level 6 (which is considered the equivalent of a degree) and for all ages. 

The number, and type, of professions embracing apprenticeships have also grown considerably and the legal sector is one of those that has recognised the opportunities these apprenticeships provide, not only to the apprentice but to the firms that employ them and nurture their skills and passion for the profession. 

Why be an apprentice?

Why should someone choose a legal apprenticeship over the more traditional route of going to university for a degree? Firstly, university isn’t for everyone. This can be for a multitude of reasons, but one of the biggest concerns is the cost of going to university. According to the UK Government’s own statistics, students who start their course in 2022/23 will have an average debt of £45,600 by the time they complete it so there is cause to pause before committing to such a long term financial burden. 

For others, university life may not appeal. When I was 16, I couldn’t wait to get out of the educational setting and into the “real” world. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and it took a good few years before I happened to work for someone who saw my potential and provided the training and opportunity that I needed to get the qualifications required to get where I am today.

Everybody’s journey is different and having apprenticeships open to everyone, of all ages, is a great alternative for those who either didn’t go to university or who don’t want to go but are going to university now but who do want to work in the legal field. 

Of course, we have to acknowledge that the pay for an apprentice is not always brilliant. Some employers pay a reasonable wage, but others adhere to the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices of £5.28 per hour (age 16–18 or 19+ after you have completed your first year of apprenticeship). But, on the plus side, apprentices will gain real experience working in the legal profession, as well as having at least 20% of their time dedicated to training and studying towards their end-point assessment and any other qualifications they may take to support their career, which also counts as payable time. 

Even if an individual doesn’t have the minimum English or maths qualifications required to take an apprenticeship, those qualifications will be paid for as part of the apprenticeship and sufficient study time must be provided during normal working hours to accomplish this. 

If an apprentice undertakes the Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship, they will come out with, on average, two years’ experience of working in the legal sector, as well as a certificate that they have achieved the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to successfully complete their apprenticeship. 

In many other cases, they may well have also achieved another recognised qualification alongside their apprenticeship, such as the NALP Level 3 Certificate for Paralegal Technicians and can therefore be eligible for membership in a professional membership body, such as the NALP Paralegal Technician membership. 

All of this serves to increase the apprentice’s market value when looking for a permanent position in the legal sector or when negotiating their advancement at the organisation where they undertook their apprenticeship.

Getting started

If you are looking for apprenticeship opportunities to help you gain a footing in your law career, the best place to start is the Government website at Find an Apprenticeship. This will also provide you with additional information about how apprenticeships work, regardless of your age. 

Another excellent resource is on the apprenticeships website, where you can enter your subject of interest and your postcode and browse apprenticeships before you apply. 

Apprenticeships are also often advertised on the usual job sites and at local job centres.

What’s the benefit for employers?

There are a number of reasons for employers to look into getting an apprentice rather than just employing a recent graduate as a trainee. 

There is the obvious cost savings. A graduate is likely to expect a much higher wage than the basic national minimum wage. While we are certainly not advocating for all employers to pay as little as possible for their staff, it is a consideration in these days of rising costs affecting businesses, particularly small ones. 

There is also the fact that taking on a paralegal apprentice is not just restricted to a law firm. Many organisations these days have their own legal teams as a way of reducing what they spend on legal advice and a paralegal apprentice can be a great way to get some help for the team while also training an enthusiastic individual and giving them some real-world experience in the workplace. 

There are some general business benefits too. According to the Government’s statistics, 86% of employers found that apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation; 78% said they improved productivity; and 74% said they helped improve their overall service. Employing apprentices has also been shown to improve the image of an organisation.

At the end of the apprenticeship, the organisation has an employee who has achieved a recognised qualification (the End Point Assessment, plus any others that may be complementary to the apprenticeship, such as the NALP Level 3 Certificate for Paralegal Technicians). Plus, they have someone who has been trained to meet that organisation’s specific needs. They will know the culture and standards of the organisation and already be an experienced member of the team. 

Of course, we can’t forget the fact that apprenticeships attract Government funding. How much funding can be provided depends on the apprenticeship standard itself and the size of the business. Larger organisations with salary bills of more than £3 million will be paying an apprenticeship levy of 0.5% of their annual salary expenditure. Otherwise, employers pay 5% towards the cost of training and assessing their apprentices. Each apprenticeship is allocated a funding band maximum which is paid directly to the training provider. The training provider will then pay the End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) for the assessment element of the apprenticeship, but the employer can have a say in which EPAO is used, as well as choosing their training provider, provided both are on the Apprenticeship Provider and Assessment Register (APAR). Of course, some larger employers are also training providers on the APAR and so train their own staff, meaning they only need the services of an EPAO. 

Information for employers 

There is a lot of guidance available for employers looking to take on an apprentice. Because apprenticeships come with government funding, the Government website is probably the most obvious place to start when employing an apprentice. This will walk you through your responsibilities and lead to a link where you can apply to be an employer offering apprenticeships.

Another excellent resource is the education website website, which also provides clear information about the costs and benefits to employers of apprenticeships

Finally, there is the Aapprenticeships website for recruiting an apprentice which also provides all of the links an employer would need to start down the path of recruiting an apprentice, as well as a lot of information and guidance on the process.

Takeaway

Employers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking on an apprentice, as well as giving that individual a hand up onto the first rung of the ladder for their chosen career. And for the apprentice themselves, it can be the prefect start to a career in a dream profession. 




Jane Robson is CEO of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). 

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