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Legal apprenticeships: ‘I fully intend to progress to partner’

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Legal Cheek‘s Alex Aldridge meets three lawyers who embarked on the legal apprenticeship route before it became fashionable.

CILEX-graduation

Legal apprenticeships have been the big legal education news story of 2014. But the non-graduate route into law has been running quietly for several decades now.

Katie Winslow, Sophie-Jennifer Pyle and Amey Welch (pictured above) all began legal apprenticeships straight from school and, six years later, have qualified as chartered legal executive lawyers at, respectively, Irwin Mitchell, Burges Salmon and the alternative business structure Quindell Legal Services.

They chose the route largely because they didn’t want to get into debt at a time when the route was little-known, and now — to their delight and mild amusement — find themselves in receipt of a qualification that is distinctly fashionable. This was reflected by the fact that big-name politicians from both the Conservative and Labour parties attended this year’s Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) graduation ceremony.

At the event, justice minister Shailesh Vara feted the potential of legal apprenticeships to create a “more diverse legal profession and judiciary that reflects the society in which we live and better reflects the make-up of modern Britain.”

Meanwhile, shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter predicted there would be “many more chartered legal executives as advocates, judges, partners, and heads of law firms over the next few years.”

Winslow, Pyle and Welch hope to progress to these senior positions. “I fully intend to progress to partner,” says Pyle, adding that her firm, Burges Salmon, is keen on the apprenticeship route and is “growing little nests” of chartered legal executives across its departments. Welch, meanwhile, aspires to one day become a judge, while Winslow is reluctant to be drawn on the specifics of her future other than a commitment to rise through Irwin Mitchell’s ranks.

All want to become solicitors — which would require them to do the Legal Practice Course (LPC) but not a training contract. It is a typical career trajectory among ambitious chartered legal execs. What will be interesting to monitor is whether a rule change this summer granting CILEx lawyers independent practice rights will change this pattern.

Listen to Alex Aldridge chat with Pyle, Winslow and Welch in the podcast below.

15 Comments

Not Amused

I fail to see how the people who lied about legal aid are suddenly more plausible when speaking on any other topic.

John

I’m starting to think that Legal Cheek is on commission from CILEx! This is the second one sided article that has been published on this site. It would be nice if you painted the full picture for all those undergrads that visit your site – namley that the big law firms will not touch you if you are not a qualified solicitor. As for becoming a judge – HA!

CILEx = cheap route into personal injury law.

dave

I agree, it seems to present a student’s view of CILEX which is far removed from reality, that most big firms aren’t interested in CILEX, and those that are, will only allow them entry level positions. I sincerely doubt in the next 20-30 years there will be any parity between solicitors who did a TC and CILEX. Rightly or wrongly, it just isn’t respected as a qualification at big firms.

ATH

dave

Whilst we are posting links, I suggest you look here:

http://jac.judiciary.gov.uk/about-jac/diversity-data.htm

The tables at the bottom of the page make interesting reading. No CILEX/ILEX appointees in the last 3 years.

Come back when there are as many CILEX judges as there are solicitor and barrister judges.

Hayley

Not at all cheap John. It’s called working smarter not harder and a man to say that too haha. My criminal law lecturer, who’s name was John by coincidence, was chief examiner for Ilex,. I was a ’92 student by the way and he quoted ‘If a role becomes available and it’s you or an LLB candidate, take it from me YOU will get the job! I rest my case! Have a happy and hard life John, you deserve it 🙂

Steve

It is a nice idea as it broadens the variety of people who can access the legal profession and it is also very common in accounting, however, I really cannot see it being more widespread in law firms.

The top City firms and the bar barely recruit outside of a few universities as it is, so the chances of them broadening their intake to start hiring people who haven’t gone to university at all is incredibly unlikely. However, saying that the CILEX certificates are a a fast-track to PI law is a bit harsh, as the people here have good jobs. The truth is though, that it will be hard if not impossible to ever reach the top of the profession through this route.

deborah Griffiths

CILEx members have only recently been allowed to become judges, and I believe that at least 2 have so far. These stats don’t reflect the number of lawyers who used the CILEx/ILEX exams as a route to becoming a barrister or solicitor and then achieved glory.

There are a number of high profile lawyers (barristers and solicitors) who came through the CILEx route, including the Law Society Council member for Civil Lit, Keith Etherington, who is currently undertaking cases that are featuring in national newspapers, as well as June Venters QC. June is the first woman solicitor Queen’s Counsel and she currently remains one of only two Women Solicitors to have achieved this highly regarded status (http://www.venters.co.uk/staffDetail.ink?staffID=919). District Judge Peter Traynor also took the CILEx route to qualification.

I’m sure there are many others out there, including other judges, but whilst there remains such negative opinions of their route, perhaps they don’t all yet parade their professional pathway?

dave

Those peolpe you mention are to be commended, but if CILEX were so great, why do they have to become barristers and solicitors?

Hayley

@deborah Hear Hear!! Thank the Lord for saving my fingertips from a barrage of pain via my keyboard. It’s men like John, who’s probably a man in a white van fellow. A mere carpet kid trolling the website, Amen! Ps.. I don’t study/practice law by the way now John, I trade on Wall St. where my working days are halved instead and where I decided I’d make more money. #JustSaying #EnjoyTheHardLifeJohn

Dave

There is no reason why this route shouldn’t work. You don’t need a degree to bloz documents as a junior lawyer.

dave

Oi, that’s my name!

Not Amused

The dangers of it not working come from *clients*. Clients and the demands and expectations of clients are the elephant in the room which the people pushing ILEX always ignore.

That’s largely because the people pushing it either a) don’t want to be negative or, b) have a vested interest in selling ILEX.

In the past there was a 5 year non-university route to being a solicitor. Because you ended up after 5 years in EXACTLY the same place as someone who did a law degree and articles (the LPC was I think also shorter, but you were a SOLICITOR) lots of people from all backgrounds did it. That means kids from Eton and Winchester and ultimately a lot of partners had gone down this route.

Nowadays there is a huge commercial interest in the lpc being as expensive as possible. That then precludes or excludes poor kids. But any *genuine* route to qualification which bypasses the LPC would harm those commercial interests. Step forth ILEX. ILEX doesn’t threaten the commercial interests because you don’t automatically become a solicitor.

But why would the other parties who aren’t the commercial interests also back ILEX? I hear you ask. Well law firms too have a vested interest in having a second tier recruitment system. The net result of the LPC cost and training contract cost is that NQs represent a huge commercial investment. Law firms are increasingly looking to become fat bottomed pyramids where only a few at the top make any money (like PLCs and unlike a traditional profession such as the Bar). So having large amounts of lower paid employees who can fill the bottom rungs of their pyramids (and who can easily be fired and re-hired as the market changes – because the NQs are valuable it makes fire/re-hire less flexible where they are concerned).

What irritates me is the way this is then spun and sold to the public as being ‘good’ for social mobility. It is NOT good for social mobility to have a second tier employment system for poor kids. However Judges and Politicians have absolutely no knowledge of and not the tiniest of desires or inclinations to learn about the economics of the legal industry. They hear “it’s good for poor kids” (and even though when you look at the detail it is not) they endorse it.

Poor kids and rich kids should have equal access to the best paying jobs in law. Any system which is purposefully designed for poor kids only creates a second tier system. I know ILEX has many fans who want to *believe* in it but that belief is no more grounded in fact than religion. As things stand I see no ILEX kids getting £95,000 as an NQ starting salary. I think the amount of Etonians who take ILEX is a good test, precisely because either something is good enough for them OR it is second rate and if it is second rate then I don’t want it for any young people.

H

I don’t know nearly as much as Not Amused on the topic, but I had assumed that it was pretty obvious to all the these legal apprenticeships were a second tier option. They have no real long-term advantage over a degree. Ok, if you are a bright kid but for some reason don’t get into a good university to read law, either take a year off or go via the legal apprenticeship route. Diversity might be increased, but, as Not Amused says, only at low levels – very few will become partners etc. and if they do it will take much much longer for them to do it than someone with a degree.

Samwise

Don’t suppose the interviewee from Quindell could shine some light on the company, their legal services, how they sit in the face of Jackson reforms and recent allegations? Can the legal function truly operate as an internal control if the practitioner is qualified via this route?

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