Over 50 top law firms join forces to double solicitor apprenticeship numbers in first-of-its-kind City collaboration

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By Aishah Hussain on


From 50 to 100

Over 50 City law firms have combined forces to recruit at least 100 solicitor apprentices into London within the next year — roughly doubling the number currently available.

The collaboration, known as CityCentury and led by the City of London Law Society (CLLS), was announced today on Social Mobility Day. It aims to recruit, develop and qualify solicitor apprentices, with plans to more than double current numbers — from 50 to 100 — by September 2024 and to create at least 100 CityCentury-route partners by 2040.

Six law firms spearhead the group — Allen & Overy, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright and Osborne Clarke — with the rest representing “a myriad of different business models and prospective solicitor employers”.

Thirty-eight of the firms will recruit solicitor apprentices from autumn 2024, five will announce for the following year, and the remaining firms will announce their apprenticeships in due course. All of the firms anticipate having installed their programmes by 2025.

The solicitor apprenticeship is a six-year programme open to sixth-form students, who do not wish to pursue the traditional university route into law. It encompasses work with study towards a degree and the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), enabling apprentices to earn whilst they learn.

“The cost of going to university and pursuing the traditional route to a career in law is unrealistic for many aspiring solicitors and is one of the biggest barriers for talent entering the City solicitors’ profession,” said Paul Lewis, Linklaters’ firm-wide managing partner, who instigated the new initiative, alongside the five other spearhead firms. “I want us to help address this by opening up the solicitor apprenticeship route in the City. We’ve accelerated our own solicitor apprenticeship programme at Linklaters over the last few months and are working to scale-up this approach by starting the City Century collaboration.”

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Patrick McCann, chair of the CLLS training committee and learning director at Linklaters architected the launch alongside Joanna Hughes, CLLS training committee member and founder of a solicitor apprenticeship consultancy. The duo delivered the keynote, focused on solicitor apprenticeships, at this year’s LegalEdCon.

McCann said: “When we spoke to 50 City law firms at the end of last year, it quickly became clear that the conversation was changing — to ‘let’s get this done now’ — a real sense of City firms wanting to create an appealing hiring message and do something special.”

Hughes added: “I find it hugely exciting to see the generosity of spirit flowing between firms. We are now creating high production value and appealing content about City solicitor apprenticeships which City Century will push out to schools, including those in social mobility cold spots, using social media channels, UCAS and other specialist organisations.”

A growing number of law firms now offer solicitor apprenticeships, including the six law firms spearheading the collaboration. They will work to encourage the adoption of solicitor apprentices across the City, in addition to their training contract programmes open to graduates.

UCAS data shows almost half of all users — about 425,000 — are now interested in apprenticeships, and from this autumn, the university admissions service will display apprenticeships side-by-side with undergraduate courses, its chief executive Clare Marchant said.

Sarah Oladele, a Year 12 student and aspiring solicitor apprentice, said: “As a black student from a low socio-economic background, choosing the right option comes down to three things: the degree, the experience and the cost. This is why this collaboration of 50 City law firms offering solicitor apprenticeships is a dream, a hope and attainable option for students like me looking to secure their social and career mobility and get into the profession at the age of 18, without worry of the costs, guaranteeing progression into the rewarding and respected career of a solicitor; but also a benefit to the law firms, gaining from the young talent from under-represented communities that other routes of recruitment filters out.”

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