An initiative by 50 City law firms to increase the number of solicitor apprentices “could snowball”, the chair of the City of London Law Society (CLLS) training committee has predicted.
Patrick McCann said clients were “definitely interested” to know that law firms were involved in the City Century initiative, led by the CLLS, and that firms wanted to remove “financial barriers to entering the profession”.
Mr McCann, director of learning at Linklaters, said that by the end of last year, 22 of the 50 law firms employed solicitor apprentices.
Later this year, 38 of them would start recruiting for apprenticeship roles to start the following autumn. By autumn 2025, he expected over 50 firms to have taken on solicitor apprentices.
“Within the next three or four years, I imagine this figure will double again. It could snowball.”
Mr McCann said each firm was committed to taking on at least two apprentices. Firms that were new to the scheme could learn from the others through mentorship and webinars, funded by contributions based on the size of firm.
“There is a lot involved in taking on a solicitor apprentice. The initiative makes it achievable for firms that would find it challenging to go to the market and make it work.
“Getting more than 50 City firms to collaborate over anything is phenomenal.”
Mr McCann said only one law firm with fewer than 50 London-based partners employed a solicitor apprentice before City Century started, but there were now eight.
The benefits were the talent the firms were now accessing in terms of “entrepreneurship, drive, diligence and emotional intelligence”.
Mr McCann said the law firms also benefited from the training costs they could recoup from the apprenticeship levy, to which they contributed.
He added that City Century, which has its own website, was planning a joint marketing push to target potential apprentices who might not be aware of the route.
Joanna Hughes, director of Joanna Hughes Solicitor Apprenticeships and a member of the CLLS training committee, said none of the firms she had spoken to were against the initiative in principle.
Ms Hughes said some were not “quite ready” for apprentices, and because it involved a new route to qualification, it needed the approval of senior management and this could take time.
She said the reason City Century chose to focus on the six-year apprenticeship scheme, rather than shorter versions for existing paralegals, was because it was “most impactful” in improving socio-economic diversity.
Ms Hughes was co-lead of the solicitor apprenticeship scheme at Allen & Overy, the first magic circle firm to employ solicitor apprentices.
However, she said it was Linklaters and its managing partner Paul Lewis who had “spearheaded” the City Century initiative.
Robert Halfon, minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, commented on the official launch of City Century, timed to coincide with Social Mobility Day: “Apprenticeships are an essential component of the government’s skills agenda, extending the ladder of opportunity and helping to grow the economy by boosting the skills pipeline.
“It is fantastic news that these 50 City law firms have committed to increasing the number of London-based apprentices.”
City Century estimates that by 2040 at least 100 new City partners will have been created via the solicitor apprenticeship route.