Rachel Rothwell says a new apprenticeship scheme is a welcome alternative to conventional routes into the law – and students will know exactly what they are getting.

Last week, the Gazette reported on the growing numbers of law graduates who are going into paralegal roles. One recruiter said law firms are receiving up to 100 applications for every paralegal vacancy.

Of course, the dearth of training contracts and the rising number of students signing up for the Legal Practice Course and other training courses is only too well-known. There is a major problem out there for the many talented individuals who have done all the study they need to do, but cannot secure a training contract.

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But at the lower level, there was a Gazette story this week which indicated that things may actually be opening up. Legal commentators are only too fond of driving home the message that we no longer need as many qualified lawyers; we need lower-level staff who are appropriately trained and can complete tasks in a more price-effective way.

Addleshaw Goddard has addressed this in a structured and sensible way. It has set up a legal apprenticeship scheme, through which it will be employing 10 school leavers (with A-levels or equivalent) to be trained up as paralegals in its transactions services team. The scheme is designed for those individuals who are not necessarily suited to attending university – and, frankly, may not be able to afford it – but who still have something to contribute to the legal sector.

At £12,000, the salaries on offer are not high, but combined with the training that will be received, they are not that bad for people at school-leaver level. When I first graduated from my law degree, I had to take a job on £8k (albeit 17 years ago), because that’s all I could find where I was living at that time.

The apprentices will be supported to gain an NVQ in legal services, and – it seems – they will be given a proper, structured route to what can be a fulfilling career as a paralegal. Those who sign up for the scheme will know exactly what is on offer. That’s great news. But if only we could say the same for the many LPC graduates working in paralegal roles, who feel they are being strung along by law firms offering the promise of a training contract that always turns out to be nothing but an illusion.

Rachel Rothwell is editor of Litigation Funding magazine, providing in-depth coverage on costs and the financing of litigation.

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