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Mayer Brown to re-launch ‘articled route to qualification’ as solicitor apprenticeship

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Global firm revamps school-leaver programme to align it with government scheme

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Mayer Brown is gearing up to reposition its pioneering ‘articled route to qualification as a solicitor’ programme to better fit the ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeship scheme.

As part of an ongoing review into its current qualification offerings, Mayer Brown has confirmed to Legal Cheek that it will embrace the government-backed Trailblazer apprenticeship programme in 2018.

Two years ago, the global firm launched its unique earn-while-you-learn six-year qualification programme. Operating in association with the University of Law (ULaw), the scheme combines paralegal-level work with a part-time undergraduate law degree. Students go on to complete their Legal Practice Course (LPC) and then the professional skills course before qualifying as a fully-fledged solicitor.

The Trailblazer route, which a number of top City firms have now embraced in one form or another, operates in a similar way. Students — working at Mayer Brown for four days and attending law school for one — will undertake a six-year course which, if completed, leads to qualification as a solicitor.

Keen to bring itself under the umbrella of the government-backed scheme, Mayer Brown has revealed it will now undertake a period of transition as it implements the switch.

The training of its articled students and future Trailblazer students will be provided by BPP Law School, which already delivers its LPC to the firm’s trainees.

Mayer Brown currently has three students on its articled programme. They will not transfer to the Trailblazer route as it is not possible to do so and gain exceptions for the work that they have already completed, but their scheme — which is very similar to Trailblazer in everything but name and sees them qualify as solicitors — will continue as normal, albeit with BPP delivering the teaching. The firm confirmed to us that no decision has yet been made about how many apprentices will be taken on in 2018.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Sarah Prior, head of human resources at Mayer Brown, said:

We have been an advocate of work-based training at all levels for a number of years and the first people to qualify as a solicitor via this approach at Mayer Brown will do so having completed our pioneering ‘articled route to qualification as a solicitor’ programme. In addition to our own programme, it has been an honour to be involved in the employer Trailblazer group that has helped to create the standard for the new Trailblazer Solicitor Apprenticeship Standard launched in 2016.

In April the government will introduce a new apprenticeship levy. Targeting businesses with annual pay bills of more than £3 million, firms like Mayer Brown who will have to pay the levy can recoup some of it to fund vocational training. The government’s hope is that the levy will encourage more firms to take on talented school-leavers.

And this already appears to be the case. Burges Salmon, Fletchers and Eversheds Sutherland have all implemented the government scheme. Meanwhile Clyde & Co, Freshfields, Irwin Mitchell and DWF operate a similar programme, however students are only able to qualify as paralegals.

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10 Comments

Not Amused

The ultimate test of these schemes will always be the same – they have worked when kids from private schools also chose to do them.

We had an old route to qualification without need for a degree. There are probably still some old partners who qualified under it. You knew that had worked because public school boys did it. That is the test.

Anything else risks becoming a second class route.

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Anonymous

I would be happy if it simply opened up the profession to more people who wouldn’t otherwise become solicitors. So I’d like to see it be successful by not having public school kids dominate. Provided the training is good – and Mayer Brown is a firm that’s well known for offering good training – I don’t see it becoming a second class route.

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Anonymous

Big criticism of these schemes is that they simply do not pay enough money to attract anyone who lives outside of London and does not have the benefit of living with their parents. Speaking to apprentices I know across a couple of different law firms, the only way they are able to do it is because either their families live in London or they are from wealthy families who provide financial support. Hardly broadening access to the profession.

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Anonymous

I’m not sure that’s true – they pay salaries comparable to other entry level graduate positions, albeit not legal positions.

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Anonymous

18k, but they have to pay for their legal studies out of that as well. So not really comparable.

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