Weightmans is the first law firm to offer new legal apprenticeships, launched earlier this week by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) as part of National Apprenticeship Week.
The firm is offering two Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services. It forms part of a government-led initiative to increase the number of people within the legal market who come through a vocational pathway rather than academic qualifications. It enables apprentices to become qualified while working full time for a firm.
Sarah Hardy-Pickering, learning and development manager at Weightmans, said: “… this is a great initiative that will prove very popular within the industry – I imagine many firms will be right behind us in offering this qualification.
“Increasing university fees may be a deterrent to some young people who have the potential to become excellent lawyers. These new apprenticeships give them a chance to work towards that dream career they thought out of reach.”
Two apprentices will join Weightmans’ Liverpool office in May, although the firm eventually plans to roll out apprenticeships across its offices.
The new Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services is intended as a route into a legal career for paralegals in personal injury (claimant and defendant), insolvency and debt recovery and commercial litigation.
A Level 4 apprenticeship is the equivalent of the first year of an undergraduate degree. It is then possible for apprentices to progress and become chartered legal executives.
Alan Woods, chief executive of Skills for Justice, said: “With law firms expected to increase the number of paralegals they employ by anything up to 18 per cent between 2012 and 2017… they can now be confident that there is clarity about how the role and skills required of those who provide legal services, but are currently unqualified, are defined.
“Apprenticeships as we all know provide work experience and knowledge, increasing the diversity of the workforce by facilitating access for a wider pool of job applicants. Most importantly they dramatically increase opportunities for young people to develop fantastic careers in law.”
The Government is set to roll out a legal apprenticeship scheme in conjunction with BPP Law School from next year (2 January 2013).