Freshfields becomes first magic circle firm to launch apprenticeships

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It could be set to offer training contracts in new Manchester office too


Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is poised to become the first magic circle law firm to offer legal apprenticeships, with the global giant earmarking their Manchester office as the prospective launch site.

According to legal website Lawyer2B (registration required) the scheme is set to be launched within “the next 12 months” but details regarding the number of places on offer, start dates and pay are still to be finalised. It is understood that the elite outfit will provide apprenticeship routes to both paralegal and solicitor level.

Currently, there are two types of apprenticeship stream on offer from City law firms. There is the traditional apprenticeship — which results in non-graduate qualification as a chartered legal executive, an alternative type of lawyer. And then there’s a new government-backed ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeship, which includes earn-while-you-learn LLBs and results in direct qualification as a solicitor.

A spokesperson for Freshfields told Legal Cheek:

We’re looking at a number of ways to attract talented people in Manchester and the apprenticeship model is one that we are hoping to be able to offer later this year.

If given the green light, Freshfields would be the first magic circle outfit to join the likes of Mayer Brown and Eversheds. The London office of international outfit Mayer Brown unveiled a tie-up with the University of Law (ULaw) last summer to create a first of its kind, earn-while-you learn “articled apprenticeship” programme.

More recently, Eversheds has also embraced the apprenticeship movement, opening applications for its first Trailblazer apprentices this month. Run in partnership with BPP University Law School, the initial eight cohort is due to start this September.

Finally, it is also rumoured that the magic circle firm is mulling over the idea of offering training contracts at its Manchester hub.

The firm, which currently offers around 80 training contracts at its London office, revealed last October that it was in the process of doubling its presence within the northern city and is moving to its new 80,000 sq ft of space in One New Bailey in early 2017.

Don’t apply immediately, however, as the report does stress that a training contract offering up north is “unlikely to happen in the short term”.


Not Amused

This is everything we feared about a two tier system of jobs. Sticking them in a support office merely confirms our fears.

When we had social mobility in this country we had a 7 year route to being a solicitor straight from school. It was a success. We can know that because Etonians did it. We know that because top partners at wealthy firms did it.

This will be as bad as ILEX and no amount of lies and propaganda will change it.

What a damning indictment of social mobility in this country.



You missed the part where it said they’re also going to move their trainees to the support office, so it’s not really two tiers is it?



They’re not moving trainees to Manchester. They’re considering offering Tcs in Manchester. Currently there isn’t the infrastructure there to do that (it’s only support staff).

I imagine that this will go one of three ways:
1.) Manch remains a support hub, in which case apprentices would need to be transferred to London for the final part of the training.
2.) Manch becomes an office of the firm, in which case some partners and associates will be relocated there. Apprentices will stay in Manchester, and Tcs will be offered there in addition to those in London.
3.) same as before, but all Tcs are eventually done from London to save on costs.

The middle option could result in a division of quality since Manch trainees will have less client exposure and may end up doing a different type of work. But it’s hard to tell.



For forks sake they are a commercial business, not a charity, and their business decision should not be condemned on the grounds of incidental social mobility issues.

They don’t owe it to society to scrap their recruitment plans to avoid a “two-tier” profession (as if it isn’t already).

Unless the SRA bans near-shoring (which is not justifiable, law firms are a business!), I don’t see a problem with FF’s decision.


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