National Apprenticeship Week 2024
Today kicks off the 17th annual National Apprenticeship Week, a week-long celebration of the positive impact apprenticeships can have for both people and businesses.
At Fosters Solicitors, this brings a welcome opportunity for us to highlight the recent introduction of apprenticeships to our firm and also our four current apprentices who are working across our practice areas.
Traditionally for many young lawyers, their route into law has been via university to obtain a law degree and then through joining a firm’s trainee programme, where they gain valuable work experience while completing their qualification through the Legal Practice Course (LPC). For some people, this remains their preferred option and indeed our own very successful trainee programme has developed many talented solicitors, including six of our current partnership.
However, this route is not for everyone and positively there are becoming more ways people can enter and develop their own career in the legal industry – apprenticeships now being one option.
Last year, for the first time, Fosters Solicitors introduced legal apprenticeships to its workplace, which saw Hannah Dawson-Jones, Jack O’Pray, Joe Oram and Liberty Amies, all join us as apprentices in different departments across the firm.
How does it work?
An apprenticeship is a paid job, which provides hands-on experience in a particular role, but involves at least 20% of the apprentice’s working hours being spent completing classroom-based learning with a college, university, or training provider – which after formal assessment will lead to them having a nationally recognised qualification.
Three of our apprentices here at Fosters Solicitors are undertaking the Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship, which means they have joined us aged over 18, having completed advanced qualifications such as A levels.
This paralegal apprenticeship takes two years to complete before the apprentices will have to sit and pass an end-point assessment to gain their qualification.
In addition, there is also a solicitor apprenticeship available in England. This can take up to six years to complete, depending on any previous qualifications the candidate might hold. For instance, those successfully completing the Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship might have the opportunity to enrol and complete the final four years, pass the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) and qualify as a solicitor.
Joe Oram, who is an apprentice in our Residential Property team, already had a degree and is therefore undertaking the Level 7 Graduate Apprenticeship, meaning he will fully qualify as a solicitor in just over two years having completed this course and the SQE.
Why choose an apprenticeship?
Liberty who works in our Commercial Property team, explains her reasoning for taking the apprenticeship route into law.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to pursue my dream of becoming a lawyer via the apprenticeship route. I am able to study and gain invaluable experience working at a law firm, whilst earning a salary and incurring zero student debt.
“Whilst this route and the subsequent intensity may not suit everybody, for me it was unquestionably the right choice. I strongly believe that the merits of the apprenticeship are endless. When I sit the solicitor qualifying exams, I will do so armed with not only theoretical legal knowledge from completion of my law degree, but with first-hand experience and knowledge of how law firms
operate and how the profession is regulated and governed.
“I also hope to continue to gain experience in various departments, which will give me a contextual advantage when examined in areas of law I have been fortunate enough to experience closely. Moreover, I will have had six years of experience working directly with clients, who are at the heart of the work we do. Upon qualification, I will do so with six years of paid experience under my belt and no debt.”
Joe explains how this path is supporting his own personal career ambition.
“When I applied for a job at Fosters as a paralegal, I made my ambition to develop my legal career evident and discussed the possibility of doing a part time SQE alongside full time employment. This was when they introduced me to the graduate apprenticeship whereby, I could pursue my studies alongside work but be offered much-needed study time to prepare for and attend workshops.
“Additionally, the fact that I could earn money and not incur debt at the same time was very appealing. Following my degree, I knew that the most common pathways to qualifying as a solicitor would take three years – one year of study followed by two years of qualifying experience. With the Graduate Apprenticeship I saw that it would only take 30 months for which I would be gaining practical experience throughout.
“I am very grateful for the fact that my firm put such an emphasis on development and while I can’t recommend it for everybody, if you are in a position where you can devote yourself and your time to both your studies and your work at the same time, then you will find that they complement each other.”
Jack, who is an Apprentice Paralegal in our Business & Commercial team, added: “I chose the apprenticeship route over any other options due to the sheer amounts of positives it had, you get to learn while you work and get invaluable experience as soon as you finish school. You are not burdened with the debt of university, you are able to apply knowledge directly as well as it allowing you to explore different areas of law, not just through a textbook but through actual roles in a firm.
“You are able to start with far more of a firm footing than most, as you are working and learning and you are able to be ahead of the curve and show far more experience than others who may have chosen a different route.
“At Fosters, they have been nothing but hospitable, with solicitors being happy to help whenever necessary, allowing you to tap into the expertise and knowledge of all those around you, they trust you to be able to perform more complex and interesting tasks, meeting with clients and allowing you to get the real experience of what working in a law firm is really like.
“Apprenticeships, in my opinion, are an invaluable and brilliant way to learn and start a career in law, giving you the real experience along with the knowledge that a lecture hall simply is unable to provide.”
Hannah, who for her apprenticeship joined our Personal Injury & Group Actions team, explains her decision: “For me undertaking an apprenticeship offered an invaluable opportunity to gain hands on experience through real life exposure to working in the legal profession.
“The opportunity to study alongside working allows for me to put the law I am studying into practice in the workplace. By the time I qualify as a solicitor, I will have obtained six years of legal experience, and no student debt! Which will put me in an incredibly advantageous position as a newly qualified lawyer. One of the most appealing things about the solicitor apprenticeship, is the opportunity to work closely with experienced solicitors, gaining invaluable knowledge and expertise through their mentorship.
“Undertaking the apprenticeship also gives me the opportunity to attend various court hearings and conferences so early on in my career, which I would not have had the exposure to, or opportunity to attend through the traditional university route.”
How do apprenticeships benefit the firm?
Head of Staff Care at Fosters Solicitors, Heather Brown, explains what the introduction of apprenticeships has meant to the firm: “For us, apprenticeships are a growing and exciting part of our workforce make-up.
“As the theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week highlights, the importance of recruiting people with the right skills for our firm is so important – but it works both ways, just as important for staff retention and our culture, is us supporting our apprentices with first-hand skills in a role and sector they wish to be employed. This hopefully means we are developing motivated individuals who are also committed to helping Fosters develop too – and with our apprentices already looking to progress to the solicitor apprenticeship, this means that they will have been with us for up to six years before they qualify, which is longer than the traditional trainee route.”
Heather continues: “And whether through our trainee programme, apprenticeships, or other qualification routes such as CILEX, what is so positive is that individuals have much more choice and flexibility to enter law in a way that is best for their own personal circumstances, which can only be of benefit for our firm and also the industry as a whole.
“For many young people, university is either not financially viable or not a personal choice they wish to pursue – others may decide to enter the profession later on in life, and therefore apprenticeships are increasingly becoming a more flexible way for people to enter law.”
Find out more
For more information about apprenticeships, please visit the government website.
Here at Fosters Solicitors, we do not currently have any apprenticeship vacancies, but please do keep an eye open on our careers page for any future opportunities.
However, the application process is open for our 2026 trainee programme, with more details on how to apply to be found here.
Until 9th February 2024, applications are also open for our annual Summer Vacation Scheme, which sees us offer two-week voluntary placements in our Norwich office for up to seven students to gain practical experience working with us in our award-winning practice areas. Follow this link for more information.
This article was produced on the 5th February 2024 for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.