Apprenticeship Now?

I love the smell if ILEX in the morning, says legal futures Neil Rose. Well not really, but he does explore (as simultaneously does Alex Aldridge) whether the idea of apprenticeship without a law degree is making a come back. It’s good to see new interest in routes into the profession which are more open but I think we’d be mistaken in thinking that such schemes are going to lead a major change in the make-up of the legal profession. The straight from school apprenticeship will never be the mainstay of qualification into the solicitors profession. It may well provide a useful carrot to entice able youngsters to take on and then be retained in paralegal roles; many could then make decent solicitors but the profession at large is unlikely to move away from graduate recruitment. Why? Because the profession needs to compete for people with the best intellectual ability. It needs to do so because of the demands of the job. And it needs to do so because it is competing with other occupations for its elite professional status. As a general rule, the best entrants into the profession will be found amongst university graduates. That’s not to say the best lawyers can not be found amongst apprentices but it does mean they are less likely to be. Student fees will have only a marginal impact on that. Future lawyers will still predominantly be graduates.

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About Richard Moorhead

Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London with an interest in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts.
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5 Responses to Apprenticeship Now?

  1. Botzarelli says:

    It would be a good entry route into “high street” firms. It would save them being inundated with applications from desperate graduates and let them recruit from people more like many of them – focused on local service and building a practice to do useful everyday work rather than being particularly interested in the academic and theoretical aspects of law. Having worked with impressive older non graduate partners in top 10 firms as well as knowing an excellent 3 generation old family owned practice where all the equity partners were non grads (grand dad still having a practicing cert and loyal following into his 90s) this is not a prescription for exclusivity or denigrating the high street.

    • Richard Moorhead says:

      I agree, but unless there is a collapse in graduate numbers (law and non-law) they’d still probably tend to recruit graduates?

  2. I wasn’t suggesting that the legal executive route will make a major change in the make-up of the profession or that straight-from-school apprenticeships will dominate. I was, however, suggesting that there is no reason not to make non-degree routes into the profession available, particularly given widespread criticism of the qualifying law degree at the moment. Your argument does not recognise that there may be good reasons other than intellectual ability why people are not going to university, especially cost. This isn’t the time or place to wax lyrical on the many excellent legal executives I have come across in the 3+ years in which I have been editing the ILEX magazine, but it has allowed me to see many advantages to lawyers who qualify through the ILEX route over the traditional university route.

    Neil

    • Richard Moorhead says:

      I wasn’t suggesting you were suggesting it either but you do advance the idea that there are advantages without considering the disadvantages. It may be cheaper in the short term but I’d be amazed if they didn’t also earn significantly less on average in the long run and with unknown levels of attrition. They’d also on the whole be going into the most vulnerable elements of the market. Putting the same points a different way, if my daughter came to me and said I want to be a lawyer I’m going to leave school and become a paralegal I’d advise her against it most strenuously. Easier in the short term, but with unknown risk (possibly quite high) and low return.

  3. Botzarelli says:

    Already earnings at high street firms are a world away from those in large commercial firms. A keen and committed 18 year old for whom this was a dream job rather than a 21 year old desperate to qualify somehow, somewhere might have an advantage.

    Different profession but my wife set up as a part time sole practitioner chartered accountant 18 months back and from only a few weeks into being registered as such has had requests for apprenticeships and training positions on pretty much a weekly basis. An apprentice might be a possibility, but the economics and work type would not make a graduate role realistic. Small solicitors practices likely to be in similar boat and have a lot of process based work that would suit unqualified assistants more than a graduate ts looking for more meat after 2 years.

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