Professional apprenticeships help open door to legal career

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A Yorkshire law firm is helping teenagers to get a foot on the legal career ladder.

Lupton Fawcett Lee & Priestley, which has offices in Leeds and Sheffield, is one of the first law firms to take on higher level legal apprentices. The scheme offers a new post A-level route to a legal career.

The firm has taken on Callum Jackson, 18, who has joined the corporate finance department in Leeds and Daniel Higgins, 19, who is with the residential property team in Sheffield.

The training leads to undergraduate-level legal qualifications awarded by the Chartered Institute of Legal executives (CILEX).

It is part of a new wave of professional apprenticeships created since the economic crash, 
which led to a fall in graduate opportunities and a recognition that young people needed an alternative 
to the fees and career uncertainty attached to some degree courses.

Richard Marshall, Lupton Fawcett Lee & Priestley’s managing director, said: “Legal apprenticeships are part of a whole new business model.

“Offering young people an opportunity to train in this way gets them into rewarding, interesting work and enables us to develop our staff from the start; embedding the special values and commitment our lawyers have. It also means they will be trained in a practical business environment so they can quickly develop their potential.”

Mr Jackson, of Garforth, near Leeds, said: “I heard about the opportunity at my school careers day.

“It’s great to be in this position, because you hear about graduates finishing university and not getting jobs they studied for.

“With an apprenticeship, I have my foot in the door, and when I qualify, I’ll have years of experience over a graduate and less debt.”

The firm is working with Damar Training, which devised the Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services.

Damar’s managing director, Jonathan Bourne, said: “The economic climate, combined with deregulation in the sector, means that law firms are breaking down legal processes so that tasks are performed by staff at the right level. This frees up the most expensive lawyers for the highest value, most complex work, resulting in better value for clients.”

Law firm Gordons, which has offices in Leeds and Bradford, set a precedent among law firms when it launched an apprenticeship scheme three years ago.

The scheme has offered 10 young people from ordinary backgrounds a chance to enter the legal profession, which is dominated by privately educated members of the upper middle class.

Barbara Rollin, a partner at Gordons who leads the annual apprenticeship programme, said: “The closely monitored and supervised contribution our apprentices make has already been instrumental in hundreds of thousands of pounds-worth of work being generated, and we receive glowing feedback on their ability and efforts from their senior colleagues.”

A spokesman for the Law Society said it welcomed initiatives which enable people from different backgrounds to work in the profession and qualify as solicitors.