Paralegal apprenticeships embraced by profession

A number of the UK’s largest law firms pledged their support for a national paralegal apprenticeship framework this week, attending the first meeting for the new initiative at the Law Society.

More than 17 top law firms came together for the paralegal apprenticeship Steering Group on Monday (12 December), initiating the first steps for the development of the National Occupational Standards initially announced by charitable organisation Skills for Justice (2 November 2011).

The meeting attracted several top 100 members of The Lawyer UK 200, including DWF and Eversheds, who in partnership with Skills for Justice helped pull together a set of paralegal functions to form the basis of the national standards that will sit at the heart of a structured apprenticeship programme of the legal services sector.

Skills for Justice key account manager Charles Welsh said: “We are very excited about this project and delighted that so many firms, regulators, professional and representative bodies and Central Government are taking the lead on the development of these standards which will support a lot of the activity already going on in firms in this area.”

Due to the creation of the national standards the apprenticeships will attract government funding to cover the necessary training, which in turn will allow more law firms to offer a pathway for school leavers to undertake meaningful roles.

The next Steering Group is set to take place in February, subsequent to the operation of several working groups. This will be followed by a 10-week national consultation and an assessment by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The news follows the launch of several legal apprenticeship schemes in the profession, with law firms DWF, Gordons, Irwin Mitchell, Minster Law and Pinsent Masons rolling out schemes this year (1 December 2011).

Welsh added: “These standards will underpin all national apprenticeships in the legal sector and provide a framework for future qualifications and training.”