To a legal apprenticeship or to university: that is the question. It’s a decision not for the light-hearted. There’s a lot of information flying about out there, and if you want to embark on a legal career then having a solid idea of what role you want to achieve will go a long way towards helping you with this dilemma. Time to have a good hard think about where you’ll actually want to be after your training…
How to decide between a legal apprenticeship & university…
A big factor in this decision used to be the fact that there wasn't any way of apprentices becoming a solicitor, but the 2016 Solicitor Apprenticeship and the new SRA Framework has thrown that idea out the window. However, if you want to be a Barrister, there are still far more options available to those going through University. With that in mind, and the fact that the Solicitor Apprenticeship takes around the same amount of time as a Law Degree and LPC and Training Contract, and with the new rules regarding the Solicitor Qualification Examinations which are coming into play, it's perhaps more plausible to base your decision on social and lifestyle reasons.
With the Equivalent Means route to qualification coming into play, it's now also entirely possible to take a Paralegal Apprenticeship, get into work, and then carry on up the ladder to qualification at your own pace and in your own time, which allows further options for those who wish to take an apprenticeship pathway.
Making a decision
Other elements to consider in your decision are those that will have a more immediate impact on your lifestyle whilst you are studying or training. Weigh up what you want from the next few years: University is a great experience with plenty of social events and opportunities to meet new people, but it’s a big commitment both financially and time wise (a standard undergraduate degree lasts three years).
As an apprentice you’ll have the responsibility of a full-time job as you train and study for your legal executive qualification and the advantage of a salary, gaining experience in the working world and networking and building contacts with practising legal professionals. Which would suit you better?
In the legal apprenticeship corner…
A legal apprenticeship could be for you if:
- you don’t want the burden of university fees;
- you are willing to work and learn at the same time;
- you’d like to get stuck into working life in a legal environment straight way and get paid whilst you train as well.
Another big factor to consider is the introduction of the new legal apprenticeships. An ideal route for the university phobe, you can choose between a paralegal apprenticeship, a chartered legal executive, and right at the top end, a solicitor apprenticeship. These guys have been around since 2016, so they're still relatively new and shiny. They're a great option if you know exactly what you want to do within the legal sector.
The case for university…
- An undergraduate degree in law will give you a strong understanding of the seven core areas of law. You’ll get to grips with the study of law and research skills;
- An LLB (not a BA) in law will make you directly eligible for the LPC (for aspiring solicitors) or the BPTC (barrister route) on completion;
- the traditional route to becoming a solicitor or barrister is going through university, and some firms may still prefer degree qualifications;
- you will have the support of the careers service at university;
- there’s the experience of university aside from the academic aspects.
If you decide you want to dive straight into law study rather than a non-law subject, then bear in mind there are differences in courses. An LLB undergraduate law degree will make you eligible to move onto the LPC (the essential penultimate stage to becoming a solicitor) or the BPTC (the vocational course for trainee barristers).
A BA (Hons) in law or non-law subject will not set you up automatically to undertake either of these courses; it will mean you will also have take the GDL – the law conversion course – in order to prepare you for the next stage.
Ultimately, the decision is yours! Research is the key to making sure you’ve made the right choice for you.