A new higher apprenticeship in legal services has been launched this week with government backing.
Equivalent to the first year of a university degree course, the Level Four Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services will provide a vocational pathway in three areas of the law: personal injury (both claimant and defendant), insolvency and debt recovery; and commercial litigation.
The scheme – developed by a partnership of Skills for Justice, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and Damar Training – has been designed to allow people to become a qualified paralegal, with the potential to go on and become a Chartered Legal Executive.
Ahead of the launch, the Minister for Skills, Matthew Hancock, backed apprenticeships as a “way to tackle skills shortages” and “enable more people to progress in work”.
The minister said he wished to see more employers offering apprenticeships as an alternative route into the legal profession to complement the traditional graduate entry.
Skills for Justice chief executive Alan Woods, speaking on behalf of the organisations behind the scheme, said: “With law firms expected to increase the number of paralegals they employ by anything up to 18% between 2012 and 2017, we are delighted to announce that they can now be confident that there is clarity about how the role and skills required of those who provide legal services, but are currently unqualified, are defined.”
Woods continued: “83% of firms told us they would be interested in taking on apprentices in this sector, and working in partnership with CILEx, Damar and the National Apprenticeship Service to professionalise the role through this apprenticeship means that full recognition and parity can finally be given to an essential part of the workforce that has been lacking for so long.”
He added that apprenticeships “dramatically" increased opportunities for young people to develop careers in law. "Firms in the legal services industry are missing a trick if they don’t explore new ways of recruiting staff and developing skills; apprenticeships are certainly one excellent way of doing this.”
The new qualification was launched as part of National Apprenticeship week.
David Way, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service, said: “This new higher apprenticeship in legal services is another example of how apprenticeships increasingly reflect the changing world of work and the range and level of occupations available.
“We know that apprenticeships deliver real business benefits for employers. This higher apprenticeship will also enable legal firms to diversify their workforce and to attract and invest in talented young people. At the same time it will provide young people with a nationally recognised work-based route into a profession that that has traditionally been the preserve of graduates.”