There are many reasons why legal services businesses, of all sizes, are looking at apprenticeships. Here are some of the reasons why law firms we work with are using apprenticeships:
The financial case
As pressure on margins increases, many firms have improved efficiency through better use of technology, specialisation and improved administration. Organisational structures have changed too, with non-qualified lawyers and legal administrators carrying out much of the work once done by solicitors.
Even now though, how much of the work done by solicitors and other senior staff must be done at that level? Just think. If the work done by the apprentice frees up as little as a couple of hours of a fee-earner's time each week it would probably cover his or her salary cost.
The structured nature of apprenticeships also encourages firms to consider who is the right person to be carrying out a task and brings the potential to generate efficiencies throughout an organisation. Our “whole firm” approach maps job functions to competency-based qualifications with the aim of maximising the output of all staff, including fee-earners.
If you recruit an apprentice aged under 19 the Government pays the full cost of the training. Support with recruitment is also free and if your firm has not enrolled an apprentice in the last year you may also be eligible for a grant of £1,500. Funding support for training is also available for many existing non-graduate staff, making apprenticeships a very cost-effective part of your staff development strategy.
The risk management case
Unlike solicitors and Chartered Legal Executives, there has historically been no agreed definition of a “paralegal” and no single, agreed qualification framework that covers the knowledge, skills and understanding required.
With legal apprenticeships you know that at each level - intermediate, advanced and higher - your apprentice is meeting or exceeding a nationally recognised standard as well as the standard required by your firm. In addition, because an apprenticeship is about competence you know that, on completion, your apprentice not only has the requisite knowledge but is also effectively putting it into practice.
Although Government funding is generally only available to support younger apprentices and those without qualifications higher than A level, apprenticeships are a fantastic development tool for existing staff with identified training needs.
The HR case
Many of the graduates working as paralegals hope to become solicitors. They may move elsewhere for a training contract or become demotivated if they cannot achieve their goal.
Complementing traditional recruitment with apprenticeships gives you access to talented young people who have made a conscious decision to follow a different route into the profession. Whilst progression via further qualifications to Chartered Legal Executive and solicitor is possible this is not the immediate goal. Over the three to five years it takes to complete the apprenticeship pathway, your apprentice will develop into a well qualified and competent legal fee-earner and is likely to be loyal to the employer that has supported them.
Once qualified, apprentices give you an additional source of talent as opportunities arise in more senior positions.
Meet the aspirations of your clients and your community
Research carried out by the National Apprenticeship Service has shown that over 80% of people are more likely to use a business if it offers apprenticeships to young people and modern workforces need to reflect the customers and communities they serve. Offering apprenticeships is a way to build links with local schools and the wider community and demonstrates your firm's corporate and social responsibility.