Legal apprenticeships funded by the government are on course to start next September, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) have confirmed.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) yesterday approved the assessment frameworks for the new apprenticeship routes to becoming a solicitor, chartered legal executive and licensed conveyancer.
It will break the longstanding requirement that would-be solicitors need to have a degree to qualify, unless they have previously qualified with CILEx.
CILEx already has 360 legal apprentices working in over 100 firms. However, a spokeswoman said the new ‘trailblazer’ apprenticeships would generally be government-funded.
Mandie Lavin, chief executive CILEx, said that, having been “the authority” on vocational legal qualifications for more than 50 years, her organisation’s role had been “paramount” in ensuring the paralegal and chartered legal executive apprenticeship standards met the requirements.
“These new, employer-led standards ensure the qualifications will be market-driven and fit for purpose, and we look forward to working with both legal businesses and learners on delivering these apprenticeships and continuing to encourage a more diverse profession.”
Sheila Kumar, chief executive of the CLC, said the apprenticeship route to becoming a licensed conveyancer would “further broaden access to the legal profession” and provide a “more robust pipeline of experts to support the growth that we see in CLC-regulated businesses”.
Ms Kumar said the standards had been developed by practitioners working with the CLC as a regulator and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) as a professional body in relation to the probate standard.
“We hope that many employers will put existing staff and new hires through these apprenticeships.”
The minimum entry requirements for the solicitor apprenticeship are five GCSEs, including maths and English, and three A Levels at grade C or above, and/or work experience, and they are expected to take five to six years to complete.
Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, said the apprenticeships would drive up quality and improve access to the legal profession.
“Opening up the profession through improving alternative routes to qualification can make an important contribution to increasing diversity, so we see this as a positive step forwards,” he said.
A spokesman for the SRA added that the new standards corresponded to the competencies set out in the regulator’s competence statement for solicitors, published on 1 April 2015, and the assessment plan required that all apprentices demonstrated them.