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DWF to use government apprentice levy to fund new SQE solicitor training programme for graduates

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Replaces training contract from January 2022

DWF’s London office

DWF is ditching its traditional training contract programme in favour of a new super-exam friendly graduate apprenticeship. The firm will use the government’s training levy to help fund it.

The stock market-listed titan has teamed up with BPP Law School to create a “graduate entry-level apprenticeship programme” which sees rookies initially study full-time, preparing for and sitting part one of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), before completing two years of qualifying work experience.

DWF confirmed the new training programme will be subsidised by the government’s apprenticeship levy, a compulsory charge paid by law firms with a wage bill of over £3 million (0.5% of their total annual pay bill). Firms, however, can recoup this cash provided they spend it on apprenticeship-level training. Under the current rules DWF could not use the levy to fund its soon-to-be defunct TC scheme as it is not defined as an apprenticeship.

The firm says the 32-month programme takes advantage of the flexible qualifying work experience element of the super-exam, allowing graduates to start earning as soon as they start. Rookies will have an opportunity to spend time in different practice areas and complete internal and external secondments. It will replace the firm’s training contract programme from January 2022.

The change means the firm — which recently dumped specific A-Level requirements for aspiring lawyers — will no longer sponsor future trainees to undertake the Legal Practice Course (LPC), but will accept applications from students who have already completed it.

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Clare Collins, head of learning and development at DWF, said:

“We are excited to have partnered with BPP University Law School to offer one of the first graduate programmes that meets the SQE requirements. The programme will not only give candidates all the preparation they need to pass the exams but will equip them with the technical, commercial and interpersonal skills needed to succeed in a changing legal environment.”

DWF isn’t the first law firm to go public with an SQE-focused route to qualification as a solicitor. Earlier this year, Kennedys‘ launched it’s Graduate Solicitor Apprenticeship (GSA), a 30-month programme which sees would-be lawyers split their time between the classroom and the office.

The SQE is due to come into force from 1 September 2021, subject to approval from the Legal Services Board.

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16 Comments

The Maverick

No more LLB, GDL or LPC…removes the risk of doing any of these and being in paralegal purgatory, but I’m expecting comments any minute now from folks who disagree.

Mr Unknown

DWF and titan should never be used in the same sentence.

Realist

Good to see firms adapting to the SQE, but this seems to confirm what was a long-held prediction about the diversity implications of the SQE.
Inevitably firms are moulding the SQE to fit some form of the training contract model and I think the SQE won’t open up the profession to move diverse applicants it will simply mean graduates are competing for the SQE apprenticeships as opposed to TCs. Will however put an end to those who study GDL/LPC and end up on the paralegal treadmill.

Crucially though it’ll be the same people getting the jobs. Realistically who are City forms going to take as NQs? Candidates who have done their or another City forms SQE apprenticeship scheme or someone whose self studies and done 2 years work at their uni law clinic and the CAB? The choice is obvious and the SQE has done nothing to open City roles to diverse applicants.

The Maverick

I do think that law firms still don’t take students who self fund their studies, especially that LPC which they do whilst working in some instances 7 straight days a week, heck some magic circle firms have very specific LPC courses tailored just for them of 6 months. Wouldn’t they just go after undergraduate students anyway as they recruit 2 years in advance.

James

Genuine question:
Correct me if I’m wrong, but so far the only firms offering this are insurance specialists (DWF and Kennedy’s). I have been tempted to apply for one of them in order to have a better chance at becoming a solicitor, but I really don’t fancy insurance. So my question is, if I trained here but moved elsewhere afterwards, would I be forever limited to practicing insurance law? Or could I still branch out into corporate, litigation, project finance etc. later on??
Thanks!

Spam Hamwich

Maybe get the offer first and then we can talk.

Jemma

@spam Harwich what’s wrong with planning ahead incase he/she got an offer?

Anon

What a silly response

Wageslave cuckboi

If you qualify into general corporate or litigation at a shop like DWF or Kennedys you should be ok to move somewhere else later. Avoid doing anything niche or you’ll get shoehorned in

Ben 10

Good question @ James I was wondering the same

Just Another Associate

There tend to be a mix of seats on offer and both firms are more than just insurance outfits (DWF, in particular, need to win more high margin work to keep the markets and lenders happy-ish). You’d not be exposed to the big‐ticket corporate work but likely low to mid market deals (on which you would probably be given more responsibility than the higher value deals).
I’d suggest doing some more research as it doesn’t seem like you have a great understanding of either firm yet. Good luck with your applications.

William

Only 15% of the trainee ‘seats’ are in insurance. DWF is no longer just an insurance firm and the training contract reflects that.

David

What puts you off insurance? I think it is quite overlooked as an option and you might enjoy it.

Amy

Where does this leave GDL graduates who don’t have a training contract and considering self paying the LPC? Do we have to start from the beginning again and do both of the SQE exams or can skip the first? Tried calling and emailing SRA but no response

The Maverick

From the sounds of it the GDL would be redundant at DWF specifically, however from the top of my head the GDL and LPC will be recognised well into 2030 that is assuming firms choose to accept it alongside the SQE for their cohort, best to also ask the law firms at virtual fairs.

Choices

The LPC and SQE have an overlap period. Once the SQE comes in the LPC isn’t immediately terminated.

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