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

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By Thomas Connelly on

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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