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Apprenticeship schemes continue to blaze a trail through legal profession

Freshfields and Ashfords the latest firms to offer alternative routes into law

21 April 2016

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Entry to the legal profession via alternative routes continues to gather pace, with the news that Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is considering plans for legal apprenticeships in its Manchester office, while national firm Ashfords announces it is to immediately begin recruiting a cadre of new apprentices.

Freshfields partner Gareth Stephenson told Lawyer2B this week that he was keen to have apprentices at the firm with a programme launch within 'the next 12 months'. A spokesperson for Freshfields told Solicitors Journal: ‘We’re looking at a number of ways to attract talented people in Manchester, and the apprenticeship model is one that we are hoping to be able to offer later this year.’

Meanwhile, Ashfords is offering a total of ten apprenticeships, nine in its Exeter office and one into its Tiverton office. The places are split, with seven following the intermediate apprenticeship in legal administration and three will follow the new trailblazer paralegal apprenticeship scheme.

Ashford's intermediate apprentices will either be based in the conveyancing department or spend six months in each of the firm's core divisions: commercial services, real estate and infrastructure, and private client. Meanwhile, the paralegal apprentices will be based in the property litigation and commercial property teams respectively.

The apprenticeship training will be delivered by CILEx Law School, with the firm stating that recruitment will start now for employment in September 2016.

Ken Bryant, the head of human resources at Ashfords, said the firm wanted to encourage young people in the local communities around its offices to pursue alternative routes into law: 'Ashfords offers a wide range of career opportunities in law and in business support, and this initiative contributes to that commitment and we look forward to offering these new career opportunities.'

Also commenting on the new path to a career in law, Hilary Stevenson, learning and development manager at Ashfords, said: 'Our apprentices will have the opportunity to develop as individuals and grow their careers in an environment which supports people to be the best that they can.'

The firm has received praise from Jenny Pelling, the director of business and apprenticeships at CILEx Law School, who said: 'Ashfords understands the opportunities that legal apprenticeships provide for targeted training in specific job roles.'

A growing trend has emerged of firms offering alternative routes into law, whether it is a traditional apprenticeship or the government-backed 'Trailblazer' scheme. North West firm Bott and Co offered 12 apprenticeships in 2015, following in the footsteps of Hillyer McKeown, Rowlinsons, and Gamlins Law.

Manchester-based Horwich Farrelly has doubled its apprentice intake since launching its apprentice scheme in 2013, while national firm Bond Dickinson is already recruiting its third batch of legal apprentices into its Plymouth office.

News of Freshfields's plans should have been the shot in the arm to the other Magic Circle firms to consider offering new opportunities to accessing law, rather than their traditional training contract route. However, as reported by the Law Gazette, both Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May have no plans to offer apprenticeships.

To their credit, though, some of the world's other most prestigious firms have already made headway with apprenticeships. Mayer Brown, working in partnership with the University of Law, announced the launch of an 'articled apprenticeship' programme last summer and, earlier this year, global powerhouse Baker & McKenzie unveiled a new scheme to give six school leavers apprenticeships in its London office, while Eversheds also recently opened up its 'Trailblazer' package.

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Education & Training