According to government statistics, 86 per cent of employers found apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation, 78 per cent said they improved productivity and 74 per cent said they helped improve their overall service.
So, it's clear apprenticeships are great for business, but what about the benefits for apprentices themselves? SoGlos chats to the National Association of Licensed Paralegals to discover more about how apprenticeships can lead to a flourishing legal career and boost businesses' prospects along the way.
About the expert
Jane Robson is CEO of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals, a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England).
Through its centres around the country, accredited and recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal professional. It has 91 members in Gloucestershire.
How challenging is it to embark on a legal career?
It’s commonly thought the legal profession is exclusively for the ‘elite’. To be fair, there has been a lot of snobbery around the law — both real and perceived — and it is well documented that the traditional legal professions have lacked diversity and didn’t reflect those they were representing.
In recent years, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board have sought to address this.
Just as they had previously noted that ethnic and gender equality was extremely beneficial to the sector, they recognised that having legal professionals from all walks of life brings similar benefits and this led to the first legal apprenticeships — the Higher Apprenticeships in Legal Services — being introduced in 2013.
Why be a legal apprentice?
Cost can be a barrier to university. According to the UK government statistics, students who started their course in 2022/23 will have an average debt of £45,600 by the time they complete it so there is cause to pause before committing to such a long-term financial burden.
But that’s not the only reason for choosing a different path; university isn’t for everyone. Some people just prefer to get stuck in and experience their chosen career as soon as possible.
Of course, a legal apprenticeship doesn’t mean no studying. Apprentices will gain real experience working in the legal profession, but at least 20 per cent of their time will be dedicated to training and studying towards their End Point Assessment and any other qualifications they may take to support their career, which also counts as payable time.
Even if an individual doesn’t have the minimum English or maths qualifications required to take an apprenticeship, those qualifications will be paid for as part of the apprenticeship and sufficient study time must be provided during normal working hours to accomplish this.
What are the benefits to businesses?
Taking on a paralegal apprentice is not just for law firms. Many organisations these days have their own legal teams as a way of reducing what they spend on legal advice and a paralegal apprentice can be a great way to get some help for the team whilst also training an enthusiastic individual and giving them some real-world experience in the workplace.
There are some general business benefits too. According to the Government’s statistics, 86 per cent of employers found that apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation, 78 per cent said they improved productivity and 74 per cent said they helped improve their overall service. Employing apprentices has also been shown to improve the image of an organisation.
At the end of the apprenticeship, the organisation has an employee who has achieved a recognised qualification (the End Point Assessment, plus any others that may be complementary to the apprenticeship, such as the NALP Level 3 Certificate for Paralegal Technicians).
Plus, they have someone who has been trained to that organisation’s specific needs. They will know the culture and standards of the organisation and already be an experienced member of the team.
Of course, we can’t forget the fact that apprenticeships attract Government funding. How much funding can be dependent on the apprenticeship standard itself and the size of the business.
Larger organisations with salary bills of more than £3 million will be paying an apprenticeship levy of 0.5 per cent of their annual salary expenditure. Otherwise, employers pay five per cent towards the cost of training and assessing their apprentices.
Are legal apprenticeships the way forward for both businesses and apprentices?
Employers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking on an apprentice, as well as giving that individual a hand up onto the first rung of the ladder for their chosen career.
And for the apprentice themselves, it can be the prefect start to a career in a dream profession.