City lawyers pour cold water over proposed apprenticeship qualifying route

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By Jonathan Ames on

Professional regulators’ plans described as potentially weakening entry standards by not even requiring GCSEs


Any sixth-formers currently harbouring notions of skipping university and law school to qualify into a City of London law firm via the government’s new apprenticeship scheme, should probably thinking again.

A statement issued several days ago demonstrates that the great and the good of the City legal profession are going to take some convincing before apprenticeships are routinely offered at Square Mile law firms.

In an initial response to suggestions from the solicitors’ regulator that entry to the profession should be broadened through the wider use of apprenticeships, the City of London Law Society has adopted a distinctly cool attitude.

The City society told the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in a response last week that it supported “the concept of apprenticeships as a means of broadening access to the profession”.

But it then issued a significant caveat:

As long as standards are maintained, that is without a dilution of standards, diminution of quality or creation of a two-tier profession.

And it seems City lawyers have serious concerns over quality and standards. In its response, the City law society admonishes the SRA for appearing to include in its proposals changes that would “facilitate entry (onto the apprenticeship scheme) with no academic qualifications at all, not even GCSEs or A-levels …”

The City response concluded ominously, “…we are far from being reassured that standards will be maintained”.

The salvo from the City law society is the latest contribution to an at times confusing situation around legal profession apprenticeships.

In its response, the City big-wigs said their understanding of the SRA proposals was that they were “designed to facilitate the implementation of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ Trailbazer Apprenticeship scheme and the new Welsh Apprenticeship scheme for legal practice”.

However, a range of potential routes exists while others are scheduled to come into effect. As Legal Cheek observed last December, “confusion and a lack of transparency bedevil nascent solicitors’ profession apprenticeship schemes”.

Indeed, at the end of last year, a Legal Cheek survey of five high-profile law firms offering apprenticeships uncovered a variety of approaches, as well as multiple levels of pay.

Read the CLLS response in full below:

CLLS Response