Competition for six-year solicitor apprenticeships at a leading London law firm is tougher than for training contracts, it has emerged.
Katherine Wilde, director of knowledge, learning and development at Farrer & Co, said the firm received 234 applications for its first two solicitor apprenticeships, which started last month. The firm receives up to 1,000 applications for 10-12 training contracts.
Solicitor apprentices at the law firm – famous for its work for the Royal family – move through six seats during their training, as opposed to four for trainee solicitors, spending their first two years with business services teams.
Their starting salary is £21,250 and they spend one day a week at the University of Law, preparing for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
“It’s such a good route into the profession,” Ms Wilde said. “I don’t see any downside to it.”
Ms Wilde said solicitor apprenticeships were “really gaining in popularity”, but she found on her visits to schools that a lot of people still did not know about them.
The A-level requirements for solicitor apprentices at Farrers are the same as for trainees – an A and two Bs in any subjects, not necessarily law. The recruitment process is similar too, with a first round of interviews followed by an assessment day with group exercises.
Solicitor apprentices at the law firm spend their first two years in four of five business services departments: finance and risk, HR, marketing and business development, and IT. They do not work in the knowledge, learning and development team.
Ms Wilde said Farrers was “one of the few” law firms to structure its apprenticeships in a way that included business services.
“It’s very important for them to get a good grounding in the business of law before they enter our legal teams, just as it’s important for any lawyer to appreciate that a law firm is a business.”
Ms Wilde said the experience solicitor apprentices would gain in the business services teams, and their understanding of how a law firm worked, would “give them real benefits in their future careers”.
When it came to taking the SQE exams, the solicitor apprentices would “merge with the trainee cohort” in their year, sitting the exams and qualifying as solicitors at the same time.
As well as supervisors, solicitor apprentices are assigned partner mentors at each stage of the programme, who “conduct regular check-ins and provide additional support”.
Ms Wilde added that the number of solicitor apprentices at Farrers would be kept under review and, if the scheme was successful, she hoped numbers would increase.