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Apprentices among top performers on SQE

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Strong pass rates due to mix of classroom and practical learning, says regulator

The regulator has revealed that apprentices are outperforming their peers when it comes to the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said that pass rates among solicitor apprentices were on average 25.3% higher than the overall pass rate. More than 100 apprentices sat the new assessment between September 2021 and Augusts 2022. Meanwhile, across SQE1 and SQE2, apprentices secured marks that were on average 8% higher than other candidates.

The regulator suggests the strong performance is down to the mix of classroom and practical workplace learning received by apprentices. However, it goes on to stress that as the finding is based on a relatively small sample group, this data set should be treated with caution and only once more data becomes available can conclusions be drawn.

Since the arrival of the SQE in September 2021, 21 apprentices have qualified as solicitors, with a further 1,300 currently in the system. Last month Legal Cheek reported that over 700 solicitors have been admitted through the new pathway.

Holly Moore, ITV legal adviser and one of the first apprentices to qualify through the new SQE pathway, said:

“I chose an apprenticeship as it allowed me to qualify with six years of work experience already. I also obtained my law degree and SQE, all without any university debt! It’s also not only helped me to develop professionally and personally — I feel much further ahead than I would have had I taken the traditional route.”

The 2023 Legal Cheek SQE Providers List

The apprenticeship pathway has been gaining traction since its introduction in 2015. Its popularity may be down to the appeal of offering aspiring solicitors the chance to side-step university fees, instead earning as they learn with their training and exam costs covered by the firm. The route usually takes five to six years and requires candidates to pass both parts of the SQE during this time.

SRA chief executive, Paul Philip, added:

“Apprenticeships are a great way to encourage more talented people from all backgrounds to become solicitors. They are an attractive option for those who want a more affordable way into the profession and want to gain early legal practice experience. It can also be a good option for employers looking to recruit and shape new talent.”

The stats come during National Apprenticeship Week and just days after Taylor Wessing announced it was embracing the new pathway from September.

The move sees Taylor Wessing join a number of big legal players already offering the TC alternative, including Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, Charles Russell Speechlys, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland and Linklaters.

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21 Comments

Observer

Good on them. I imagine it’s because they don’t approach their studies like they already know it all (not saying that this applies to all LLBs and GDLs). .

(20)(3)

Alan

However much Legal Cheek (or Woke Cheek as it should be known) pushes this agenda, I don’t know a single client who would prefer to deal with a lawyer who hung out in the copy room for five years rather than putting themselves through years of study and exams and getting good results. It’s just a sure fire way to ratchet down the standard of the profession.

(15)(44)

Apprentince

Hi Alan,

You do realise apprentices attend law school, right?

(29)(10)

Alan

“Law school” is an American term that carries no weight in the UK unlike in the US. Your reference to it is therefore meaningless. You intentionally obfuscate the issue here. This pathway sidesteps an essential gateway to the legal profession of achieving the standards to enter and succeed at undergraduate level at university. Simply put, copying documents and filling out pro forma forms does not equate to the standard required to achieve a degree and therefore by definition candidates are inferior lawyers.

(13)(31)

Apprentice

Ok, to clarify, I have an LLB from a university in England. I’m roughly halfway through my TC (now QWE) and undertake the same level of work as the firm’s first year trainees.

I’m really not sure what your issue is?

The only difference is a chunk of my salary isn’t going to Student Loans 😃

(39)(13)

Al

I went to ICSL, and I’m pretty sure that was a law school. It was sort of hinted at in the name.

(1)(4)

Saxon

Alan, clients don’t give monkeys about a lawyer’s background. Clients only care about a lawyer getting the job done. clearly a disgruntled LPC student who never got a TC.

Fellow ICSL almuni

As someone who is probably the same age as Alan, I am delighted to offer a counterview!

The apprentice solicitors we have had (to date) in our firm are excellent. Whilst they may not have the academic rigour (initially) of traditional route trainees, they more than overcome this by combining practical experience with academic learning. This blend is to the benefit of both, and (from my experience) they grasp the tasks quicker than traditional trainees. Further, they are absolutely not doing copy room duties. Naturally, they will get the less glamorous tasks as juniors, but they are not the admin pool – they are future solicitors, and treated as such.

As for clients wanting a certain background from their legal team – this is going the way of DX. Yes, some clients will still insist on appointing “a certain kind of chap” – but they are the exception. Further, I think apprentice solicitors are actually better at dealing with clients – they’ve “grown up” in a legal environment, understand client communication from osmosis, and have neither the nerves nor the petulance/ego of some of the traditional trainees I have encountered.

I also vaguely recall there was a similar talk of doom and decay when a certain Legal Practice Course was introduced…!

Give the future of the profession a chance – any slackers (whatever their background) will not be kept on, and those who don’t find a career in law works for them will drop out of it soon enough (same as it ever was)

?

I don’t know many clients that would care to be honest. Does the lawyer do what they need them to do? A law degree is academic and doesn’t typically reflect what you really do in practice, and in any case apprentices also study for a degree too.

(13)(5)

Anonymous

Alan you’re the reason I was hesitant to enter the legal profession even if I love it. And not because it matters, but because it will make you less likely to dismiss me in a way that goes wildly off-topic — I have an UG degree from Cambridge.

(14)(3)

Saxon

Alan, clients don’t care about lawyer’s background. They care about a lawyer getting the job done. Clearly a disgruntled LPC graduate who didn’t get a TC

(0)(4)

Alan

The wokerati lynch mob is out in force I see. All I can say is I hope young people aren’t misled by these statements.

(1)(5)

OldFart

For much of the history of the legal profession, it would have been unusual for solicitors to be university graduates. Did the standard go up when that position changed? Not obviously so, I suggest.

(6)(2)

Apprentice

Having done a qualifying LLB at a Russel Group university before opting for the graduate solicitor apprentice route for my final two years to qualification, I can confirm apprenticeships are much more difficult and require much more perseverance and discipline than university degrees!

(14)(7)

Anonymouse

Can I ask what makes you say that? No malice from me here, I am genuinely curious

(2)(0)

oxon

With due respect, the quality of the RG varies wildly. Nottingham and Newcastle can hardly be compared to UCL.

You’d need to give us a better basis for this to be true (not saying it potentially isnt!).

(3)(2)

No one cares about your uni

University really isn’t that hard. I attended a “prestigious” non-Oxbridge RG uni and the law department was woefully inept. You’re really reaching by making that comparison as though there’s a wealth of difference. I would completely accept if you compared to Oxbridge given their particular style of tuition.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

I think it’s important to specify whether the apprenticeship test takers have been compared against the general sample of test takers, or against TC offer holders who are being sponsored by a firm.

(3)(0)

Anon

Lacking specification I would suspect the former by default

(1)(0)

STB Leonardo

An apprentice background is cool and gives you an opportunity to handle trivial, back office work. Having said that, if your ambition lies in elite corporate work (STB, Kirkland, etc.) then an apprentice route won’t work as elite clients won’t buy that kinda experience.

(4)(8)

Anonymous

you would most definitely be able to work for the likes of kirkland and their clients. you’re only an apprentice for 4 years. it’s like instead of going uni normally and getting a part time job, you go uni part time and work at a law firm. that’s it. After you graduate you’re a normal trainee associate, and then an associate. as long as you’re a a top firm it’s fine

(0)(0)

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