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Vocation, vocation, vocation

Universities this year saw a record drop of 5.2 per cent in applications to study law. Fees have risen at a time when interest in participating in apprenticeships has also increased – according to a recent report by the Office of National Statistics, 16.6 per cent more people took up apprenticeships in 2009/10 than in the previous year. Meanwhile in the legal market the advent of ABSs serves both to highlight the diversity of legal services offered and to change the models by which these are delivered. In doing so, will there still be a place for the law degree, or will the market be better served by on-the-job training?

21 November 2011

The apprenticeship model will not work for all legal services providers, and it could damage equality in the profession, says John Hodgson

In many ways this is a wheel coming full circle. Until the 1960s most solicitors were ‘apprentices’, although they might have prepared for their professional exams by sitting in on local university lectures. It is quite possible to educate and train technician grade lawyers through apprenticeship; that is what ILEX does. Most of the firms now offering apprenticeships are pitching them at this level, although, as with legal executives, there is room for further career progression based on experience and merit.

This model makes sense for providers of commoditised legal services. It makes no sense for the major providers of commercial legal services, or for the Bar. These need elite recruits, capable of operating in a demanding commercial and/or intellectual context. The intellectual depth that higher education...

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