Why legal apprenticeships are revolutionising the law

Jane Robson of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals
Jane Robson
A legal apprentice

There isn’t a profession without its own shade-throwing well-worn trope. Chefs are shouty bullies, models are shallow and dim, IT workers are socially awkward Doctor Who fans, and working in the legal profession is exclusively for the ‘elite’. To be fair, there has been a lot of snobbery around the law—both real and perceived—and it is well documented that the traditional legal professions have lacked diversity and didn’t reflect those they were representing. But that is changing.

In recent years, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Bar Standards Board (BSB) have sought to address this particular issue of inequality and lack of diversity. Just as they had previously noted that ethnic and gender equality was extremely beneficial to the sector, they recognised that having legal professionals from all walks of life brings similar benefits and this led to the first legal apprenticeships—the Higher Apprenticeships in Legal Services—being introduced in 2013.

Why be a legal apprentice?

Cost can be a barrier to university. According to the UK Government’s own statistics, students who started their course in 2022/23 will have an average debt of £45,600 by the time they complete it so there is cause to pause before committing to such a long-term financial burden. But that’s not the only reason for choosing a different path; university isn’t for everyone.

Some people just prefer to get stuck in and experience their chosen career as soon as possible. Some take their time to find the path best suited to them. When I was 16, I couldn’t wait to get out of the educational setting and into the ‘real’ world. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and it took a good few years before I happened to work for someone who saw my potential and provided the training and opportunity that I needed to take the qualifications required to get where I am today.

Of course, a legal apprenticeship doesn’t mean no studying. Apprentices will gain real experience working in the legal profession, but at least 20% of their time will be dedicated to training and studying towards their End Point Assessment and any other qualifications they may take to support their career, which also counts as payable time.

Even if an individual doesn’t have the minimum English or Maths qualifications required to take an apprenticeship, those qualifications will be paid for as part of the apprenticeship and sufficient study time must be provided during normal working hours to accomplish this.

If an apprentice undertakes the Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship, they will come out with, on average, two years’ experience of working in the legal sector, as well as a certificate that they have achieved the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to successfully complete their apprenticeship.

In many other cases they may well have also achieved another recognised qualification alongside their apprenticeship, such as the NALP Level 3 Certificate for Paralegal Technicians and can therefore be eligible for membership to a Professional Membership body, such as the NALP Paralegal Technician membership.

All of this serves to increase the apprentice’s market value when looking for a permanent position in the legal sector or when negotiating their advancement at the organisation where they undertook their apprenticeship.

Paralegals are the fastest growing profession within the legal sector, so this experience can make the knowledge and qualifications gained during their apprenticeship invaluable to other potential employers, enhancing their transferable skills and opening more doors for them.

What’s the benefit for Employers?

There are a number of reasons for employers to look into getting an apprentice rather than just employing a recent graduate as a trainee. For example, apprenticeships attract Government funding. How much funding can be dependent on the apprenticeship standard itself and the size of the business. Larger organisations with salary bills of more than £3 million will be paying an apprenticeship levy of 0.5% of their annual salary expenditure. Otherwise, employers pay 5% towards the cost of training and assessing their apprentices.

There is also the fact that taking on a paralegal apprentice is not just restricted to a law firm. Many organisations these days have their own legal teams as a way of reducing what they spend on legal advice and a paralegal apprentice can be a great way to get some help for the team whilst also training an enthusiastic individual and giving them some real-world experience in the workplace.

There are some general business benefits too. According to the Government’s statistics, 86% of employers found that apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation, 78% said they improved productivity and 74% said they helped improve their overall service. Employing apprentices has also been shown to improve the image of an organisation.

At the end of the apprenticeship, the organisation has an employee who has achieved a recognised qualification (the End Point Assessment, plus any others that may be complementary to the apprenticeship, such as the NALP Level 3 Certificate for Paralegal Technicians). Plus, they have someone who has been trained to that organisation’s specific needs. They will know the culture and standards of the organisation and already be an experienced member of the team.


Jane Robson is CEO of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres around the country, accredited and recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal professional.

Written by
Jane Robson
February 9, 2024
Written by
February 9, 2024