Two ‘Magic Circle’ firms say no to legal apprenticeships

They say legal apprenticeships are "not right for the profession", while many other firms are positive about the programmes.

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Two top legal firms have ruled out offering legal apprenticeships, after a number of firms recently signed up to the Trailblazer scheme.

Both Slaughter and May and Clifford Chance have ruled out the programmes, which provide an alternative to the traditional route into the profession by offering apprentices qualifications as solicitors, paralegals and chartered legal executives.

Taking the opposite approach, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer announced in April that it would be launching apprenticeship programmes in its Manchester office – the first of the top five UK law firms – known as the Magic Circle – to do so.

The Magic Circle is an informal term for what are generally considered the five leading law firms headquartered in the UK, comprised of Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter and May.

A Clifford Chance spokesperson told The Law Society Gazette that apprenticeships were “not the right model” for the firm, which will instead concentrate on offering work experience to students from less privileged backgrounds.

Howvever, well-known firm Eversheds, has launched a Trailblazer apprenticeship (which is a Level 7 qualification), which leads to qualification as a solicitor after six years of paid training and an assessment by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The Trailblazer scheme, announced last year by the government, has attracted criticism from the City of London Law Society, which says standards might not be met and maintained.

The final two magic circle law firms – Linklaters and Allen & Overy – have not yet said whether or not they will be signing up to the Trailblazer programme, but told The Law Society Gazette that they will continue to monitor how things progress.

In December, ITV announced it would deliver the first in-house solicitor apprenticeship as part of the scheme, in partnership with CILEx Law School and City University London’s City Law School.

National law firm Ashfords LLP recenty said it would hire 10 legal apprentices in its Exeter office and one in its Tiverton office. Seven will follow the Intermediate Apprenticeship in Legal Administration and three will follow the new Trailblazer Paralegal Apprenticeship.

 

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