Legal apprenticeships on the horizon

Wannabe lawyers from poorer backgrounds may be able to sidestep hefty tuition fees if law firms adopt a radical new training model

Chris Ashford, legal education officer at Irwin Mitchell, put forward the concept of the Modern Legal Apprenticeship (MLA) at a conference last month as a viable alternative to university-based routes into the legal profession.

He said: &#34The MLA would probably consist of several stages, and an employee could join this &#39elevator&#39 at a variety of points, dependent on their age or experience.

&#34A first stage [could] be a national vocational qualification, followed by Institute of Legal Executives courses, possibly followed by the Legal Practice Course and then possibly an LLM. These would be studied while working for a firm and [could] be delivered on-site by distance-learning, externally or through a virtual learning environment.

&#34An MLA should not be seen as a simple stage, but as a process that will continue through an employee&#39s working life, allowing them to develop at their own speed and according to their own needs.&#34

Irwin Mitchell originally established its non-traditional framework to provide paralegals with a career path, but Ashford believes it could also help potential lawyers unable to afford university fees to enter the legal profession.

&#34The old adage &#39adapt or die&#39 has perhaps never been truer when applied to aspects of the university sector at present,&#34 added Ashford. &#34These are uncertain times and the threat of long-term decline is all too real. Friend or foe, legal education within practice is a nettle that must be grasped.&#34