10 ways to make legal apprenticeships work for you

"Generations Y and Z want to have early responsibility and are hungry to learn," says Rachel Brushfield, Director and Founder of EnergiseLegal. In this post, Rachel outlines the benefits that legal apprenticeships can bring to law firms and how new incentives to establish industry excellence are creating opportunities for law firms and young people alike.

Apprenticeship schemes help young people to get into work and receive training to continue up the career ladder. Numbers are growing for various reasons; the rise in legal executives, the growing number of paralegals, Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) and the rising cost of university tuition fees. Apprenticeships enable young people to start a career in the law without the need for an expensive degree.

The early apprenticeship schemes in 2012 in the legal profession turned recruitment on its head, providing an alternative route into the legal profession. A career in law has been off-putting for some talented young people because of the expensive fees and length of time without a salary needed to study.

Apprenticeships can be for new recruits but also provide development opportunities for existing members of staff. These schemes have made the law an option for young talent who don't want to go to university, prefer learning on the job with vocational training or who can't go to university for financial reasons. Apprenticeships opportunities exist both in private practice and in-house and are growing in number.

Employers are incentivised with government grants and the new Trailblazer scheme will be introduced from August 2017, ensuring further incentives for firms.

Apprentices (Generations Y and Z) want to have early responsibility and are hungry to learn so apprenticeship schemes are appealing to them as a route into the law.

Benefits for law firms

  • Financial incentives - affordable junior staff
  • Opportunities to create and mould well-rounded lawyers from an earlier age so that they fit the culture
  • Dovetail in to support the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and social inclusion initiatives
  • 'Try before you buy'. Reduces risk associated with recruitment decisions
  • Senior lawyers gain time to focus on technical matters with support to delegate to cost effective apprentices
  • Young enthusiastic talent with useful skills and competencies of determination, focus and a good work ethic
  • Attracts bright school-leavers who show the potential to prosper

Benefits for the apprentice

  • Earn while learning. Apprentices learn on the job
  • Avoid unwanted student debt
  • Gain experience and responsibility at a younger age
  • Secure a job earlier
  • Opportunity to sidestep historical social barriers to becoming a lawyer
  • Flexible structured programme to meet the apprentice's needs
  • Holiday pay
  • Opportunity to work alongside experienced staff
  • Gain job specific skills and an industry-recognised qualification
  • The chance to grow into a role
  • A guaranteed job and income in the current economic climate
  • Experience the practice of law and the chance to find out if law is the right career for them

10 tips to make apprenticeships a success

  1. Ensure that apprenticeships are included as part of diversity and inclusion discussions
  2. Make sure that motives are genuine and apprentices are not just adopted to 'look good' with CSR, or because there is a financial incentive
  3. Adopt reverse mentoring e.g. social media as part of the induction programme so partners and senior managers can see the benefits apprentices bring
  4. Watch out for any elitist bias regarding apprenticeships versus the traditional law school route and have open discussions to explore any beliefs to counter bias
  5. Frame apprenticeships as part of a diverse talent pool for better problem-solving
  6. Share the financial benefits of choosing
  7. Share best practice by meeting pioneers of apprenticeship schemes to learn from their learning curve
  8. Introduce a pilot scheme to trial and review apprenticeships
  9. Ensure the people responsible internally and externally for recruitment are open-minded and forward-thinking
  10. Review existing employees to identify any who might be interested in an apprenticeship scheme and who want to develop their skills and knowledge to gain a promotion

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