How much does a solicitor apprentice earn?
If you’re looking at applying for a solicitor apprenticeship position, a key factor you may be considering is how you could get paid . Here we will explore what to expect, and some background on what exactly we mean by a ‘solicitor apprentice’.
What is a solicitor apprentice?
A solicitor apprenticeship usually consists of a six-year, Level 7 legal course, although the length may be reduced for those progressing from other apprenticeship schemes. Apprentices work and study throughout the entire six years and are paid a proper wage.
Solicitor apprenticeship schemes act as an alternative to the more usual route of attending university before securing a training contract. They are an alternative to university, for those who would rather be in paid work and avoid purely academic courses. Although not all firms offer apprenticeship schemes, they are becoming increasingly common.
The minimum salary
Any apprentice – in the legal profession or otherwise – must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for an apprentice, which as of this year starts at £4.30 per hour for those under the age of 19 (further information on the payment for higher ages can be easily found on the government website), with a minimum of 20 working days holiday plus bank holidays.
However, don’t be dissuaded by this relatively low figure (compared to starting salaries in many full-time jobs), since many law firms pay much more than this plus regular pay rises.
One of the primary differences in salary is location. Apprenticeship schemes in London often offer a significantly higher salary than more regional firms, reflecting the typical pay difference of most companies in London with their equivalent regional counterparts. Indeed, in 2018 it was found that solicitor apprenticeships in London averaged around £24,000 (with starting salaries around the £20,000 mark) – much lower than the starting salaries of trainee solicitors in London, but on par with many northern firms’ trainee solicitor salaries.
In comparison, firms outside of London mostly paid between £12,000-20,000 for a first-year solicitor apprentice. However, some firms are now committed to paying at a minimum the UK living wage, which currently sits at around £19,750.
The second factor to consider is the size, practice area and level of the law firm. The figures above represent the average ranges for salaries, however figures can vary wildly from firm to firm.
The third factor to consider is that the salaries mentioned above are the starting salaries. Within a usual six-year scheme there is a steady rise in an apprentice solicitor's salary, with the final salary (as a qualified trainee solicitor), often up to double or triple the first year’s pay, upwards of £30,000 and often higher.
However, a potential factor to consider is not only the amount you will be earning, but the amount you will save by choosing this route instead of university.
University students studying law can easily accrue debts of over £40,000 and spend at a minimum (in order to qualify for a role as a trainee solicitor) four years studying with no salary. Whilst sponsorship can be an option, this is still very expensive. Becoming an apprentice solicitor provides an alternative that avoids high debts whilst simultaneously earning a full annual salary, plus getting qualifications for free.
There are a few different factors that need to be considered when looking at how much an apprentice solicitor earns, but it’s important to remember that it can never fall below the National Minimum Wage rate for an apprentice. It should also be noted that the possible salary expectations for post-apprenticeship fully qualified solicitors can range up to far higher figures.