School leavers seeking a route into the profession are being offered a legal services apprenticeship in a partnership between the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and Manchester Metropolitan University Law School.

The scheme will provide legal services apprenticeships at more than a dozen regional firms including Pannone, Weightmans and Hill Dickinson. Apprentices will achieve technical and competence qualifications from CILEx within 18 months.

The scheme follows recommendations in last month’s Legal Education and Training Review for greater flexibility and workplace training.

Micáel Barden, the law school’s head, said: ‘This is quite revolutionary because within months of beginning their training, these young professionals will be fee-earning for their firms.’

Emma Holt, managing partner at Pannone, said the apprenticeships should bring more diversity to the profession.

‘The reality of the modern legal world is that, while there will always be highly skilled solicitors and partners within legal practice, law firms are employing more paralegals and this is an opportunity for students who might not otherwise consider the law as an option,’ she said.

The scheme will be funded out of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s £8.5m Employer Ownership of Skills pot. Each firm will receive £5,000 toward training and exam fees. Candidates will receive a minimum £12,000 starting salary. More than 100 school leavers are expected to enrol.

Firms and in-house counsel will receive full funding to train college leavers under the age of 19; firms will pay half the training costs for those over 19.