Should the legal apprenticeship age limit be scrapped?

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Current rules discriminate against legal profession vocational course graduates; while the prospect of the non-university, loafing-on-sofa route to qualification looms


Uncertainty hangs over the shape, form, powers and political hue of the next UK government following the vote on independence for Scotland, but the body representing legal executives has wasted no time in firing off a policy wish list for the next administration.

Top of the pile for the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) is a call for age restrictions on the apprenticeship regime to be lifted.

In its proposals, CILEX recognises the increasing importance of paralegals in the changing legal profession, and points out that current rules make it impossible for anyone older than 24 to qualify for a state-funded apprenticeship.

That rule effectively rules out legal profession vocational course graduates struggling to bag either a law firm training contract or chambers pupillage.

These days, only students of Mozartian child prodigy characteristics will get through a Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) on the right side of 24 — especially if they’ve not done a law degree first. Currently, the much touted alternative apprenticeship route to qualification is closed to them.

The CILEX policy paper calls for:

“The age restriction on the availability of 50% apprenticeship funding [to] be lifted and available to employers of all adult apprentices.”

CILEX goes on to advocate that ultimately all legal services apprenticeships should lead to nationally recognised qualifications. The organisation warns the future government that those apprenticeships must, “not culminate in a variety of assessment outcomes, which lead to reduced credibility of assessment and what it means in relation to learner recognition”.

The chartered legal executives also call on the next government to create a regime of interim recognition for apprenticeships “to facilitate transferability between apprenticeship outcomes, and optimise the use of the qualification”.

Of course, the expansion of apprenticeship schemes within the legal profession raises the intriguing prospect of being able to qualify as a lawyer without troubling at all with the irritating encumbrance of attending university — although chartered legal executive lawyers have of course always been able to do this.

The time will potentially come when future lawyers can while away their hours recumbent on the sofa, watching countless episodes of Judge Rinder and smoking endless spliffs before pulling their fingers out, signing up for an apprenticeship and, hey presto, in several years they get a brass plaque.

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