National firm Weightmans says it is the first to offer entry into the legal profession via the new higher apprenticeship in legal services.

The undergraduate level qualification, which launches today, is part of a government initiative to create more higher level vocational qualifications, increasing access to sectors, such as law, where graduate entry has been the norm.

Higher apprenticeships allow candidates to become qualified whilst working within a firm full-time, receiving regular training, course materials, assessment and experience.

Weightmans learning and development manager Sarah Hardy-Pickering said: ‘This initiative will prove very popular within the industry - I imagine many firms will be right behind us in offering this qualification. Increasing university fees may be a deterrent to some young people who have the potential to become excellent lawyers.

‘These new apprenticeships give them a chance to work towards that dream career they thought out of reach.’

Minister for skills Matthew Hancock said: ‘University is not for everyone - this new apprenticeship widens the talent pool available to law firms and will help enhance their competitiveness and the service they offer to clients. I look forward to seeing many more employers in the legal sector offering higher apprenticeships over the coming months.’

Weightmans is creating two new positions for higher apprentices and is also recruiting internally for two candidates to follow the intermediate apprenticeship in legal administration. The successful candidates are expected to join the firm’s Liverpool office in May.