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Career Options in Law: School Leaver

Just can’t wait to hone your legal eagle skills in the real working world? You’ll be pleased to know that there are school leaver options out there in law which won’t necessarily mean you have to fork out a fortune in degree and training fees!

School Leaver opportunities in law

- Legal apprenticeships

Legal apprenticeships are relatively new on the scene. It’s likely that this it’s a bit of a revelation to you that they exist at, the moment. But talks in the legal sector hint that legal apprenticeship opportunities for school leavers could be due to expand even further over the next few years. There may even be a solicitor apprenticeship in the pipeline, though it’s not here yet.

These schemes are currently offered by a limited number of top law firms in the UK. They last around two years and will allow you to develop your legal knowledge, learn about the law firm environment and the work they do, and begin to develop skills in the field. As well as a full-time role in the business, they also feature part-time study for a paralegal qualification, such as that provided by CILEx.

Currently the Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services and the Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services are available, for which you’ll usually need to have at least three A-levels (or equivalent) at specified grades to be eligible.

Setting the school leaver record straight

How does a legal apprenticeship compare to a traditional trainee solicitor route? Well, for a start, you’ll get into actual work in law firm much quicker! Trainee solicitors still have to go through their three- or four-year degree, the year-long Graduate Diploma in Law conversion course (if they haven’t studied an LLB Law course at university), plus the year-long Legal Practice course (LPC) before they can even get started on a two-year training contract with a firm. And that’s if they can even get a contract with such fierce competition for trainee positions.

A legal apprenticeship will put you on course for a career as a paralegal, or Legal Executive. In practice, these guys are fee-earners in law firms too, and will actually perform many of the same duties as a solicitor. It’s not totally unheard of for paralegals to covert to trainee solicitors once they’ve gained experience in a firm either. So don’t think that a legal apprenticeship will quash your opportunities in this respect.

Formal education: Should I stay or should I go?

Whether you stay on at college to earn some A-levels and head on down the traditional university route or take a school leaver option depends on your career ambitions in this industry.

At the moment, there is no school leaver option for wannabe barristers. If you want a career at the Bar, then you will have to head to university (you can study any degree subject; it doesn’t have to be law).

Trainee solicitors will earn a lot more money than legal apprentices (but they will spend a heck of a lot more than them on all of that education and training!), and once they have completed their training contract the legal world is very much open to them in terms of career progression up to associate and partner levels in firms. The paralegal route can be rockier and more uncertain if you wish to become a solicitor in the long run, though it is possible.

That said, paralegals and solicitors are swings and roundabouts in a lot of responsibilities they hold and duties they carry out. So if you secure a legal apprenticeship you could well be just as successful. It’s up to you!