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Direct-to-solicitor apprenticeships by September 2016 as government approves plans

In a move designed to open up different routes into the legal profession, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has today published the assessment plans and standards for legal apprenticeships, including solicitors.

The standards apply to the ‘Trailblazers Apprenticeship in Law’ initiative which will define the structure of legal apprenticeships from 2017. The scheme, launched by government and developed in conjunction with industry bodies, will lead to apprentices qualifying as either chartered legal executives, solicitors or paralegals.

The solicitor route will take five to six years to complete. Entrants will require five GCSEs at C grade or above, including Maths and English, and three A-Levels at or above grade C, though other industry qualifications could be considered. The apprenticeship, which had input from a raft of law firms and businesses to set its standards, has been developed with involvement from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which has designed a new two-part centralised assessment.

Part one of the assessment tests apprentices’ ‘functional knowledge’ through a work-based appraisal and an exam at an assessment centre. If successful, apprentices must complete the ‘Standardised Practical Legal Examination’ which must be sat in the final six months of the apprenticeship and carried out by an independent organisation.

The new standards are set to open up more flexible routes into the profession and is hoped will enable candidates from a great variety of backgrounds to gain legal qualifications. However, the City of London Law Society issued a warning over what it deemed ‘inconceivable’ changes in the SRA’s apprenticeship proposals in June this year, arguing that standards could fall if changes are carried out.

The SRA Board still needs to approve the changes but, if it does, the first legal trainees could join the Trailblazer scheme in September 2016.

Chair of the Trailblazers legal committee and Addleshaw Goodard resourcing manager, Gun Judge, said: ‘There’s never been a better time to start a law apprenticeship. The Legal Trailblazer Scheme enhances the alternative to the traditional route into law – opening the doors to a more diverse talent stream entering the profession. Our apprentices create a huge contribution to the firm, and we will be looking to hire more.’

Alongside the solicitor route is the Chartered Legal Executive apprenticeship which is set to take five years to complete. There are no formal entry requirements but a minimum of four GCSEs at grade C or above is recommended. During the apprenticeship, candidates will work towards attaining two CILEx qualifications – currently structured as the CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice and the CILEx Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice. The paralegal apprenticeship lasts for two years with apprentices working towards earning a CILEx Level 3 Diploma in Providing Legal Services.

The three apprenticeship standards can be found in full under the ‘law standards’ heading here.

This article first appeared on Legal Business’ sister publication Lex 100.

The standard for a solicitor had input from:

Addleshaw Goddard


Browne Jacobson

Burges Salmon

Clyde & Co

DAC Beachcroft





Kennedys Law

Lewis Silkin

Mayer Brown



The Royal Bank of Scotland

Simmons & Simmons

Stephenson Harwood

Thomas Eggar


Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

Law Society


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