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DWF moves towards opening solicitor route to paralegal apprentices

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Those with “exceptional potential” in line for shot at lawyer jobs

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National law firm DWF has taken a step closer to helping its apprentices qualify as solicitors.

Sixteen apprentices — believed to be one of the largest cohort in England and Wales — have just started their two-year training at DWF to become paralegals.

Unlike some other firms, ranging from megalith Dentons to national outfit Fletchers and global firm Mayer Brown, DWF does not automatically offer apprentices the option to train as solicitors. But it is moving in this direction as it bids to boost diversity among its junior ranks.

Those with “exceptional potential” will be offered “the opportunity to be considered to undertake the solicitor apprenticeship pathway and qualify as a solicitor”, according to the firm’s website.

The firm is also offering apprentices the option of working towards a certificate in higher education which can then be used as ‘credit’ if they do go on to a solicitor-level apprenticeship.

Oliver Bate, head of learning and development, told Legal Cheek:

It was important that our apprenticeship scheme allows young people to take a tailored approach to their career development and keep their options open for the future rather than being confined to a particular path. As well as offering the paralegal scheme, our apprentices are able to complete an additional certification, equivalent to the first year of university, that can be used as a year’s credit towards the solicitor apprenticeship programme should they decide to pursue that.

Legal apprentices at DWF are on a starting salary of £12,000 plus benefits (or £15,000 for those based in London) and will be working in the firm’s commercial and insurance practices. Over two years, the young apprentices, who have a dedicated mentor, will work towards getting a paralegal apprenticeship with training provided by BPP University Law School.

Since 2013, the firm has recruited 20 apprentices with an 83% retention rate of those at the end of their earn-as-you-learn training.

With 12 ‘commercial centres’ across the United Kingdom and Ireland, DWF is one of a handful of firms offering the first so-called trailblazer apprenticeships this autumn and was one of the organisations which took part in the design of the new standards alongside firms such as Addleshaw Goddard, Clyde & Co and Mayer Brown. You can take a look at the solicitor standards here.