Chris Swerling, Head of HR at Cheshire law firm SAS Daniels Solicitors looks at the benefits of apprenticeship programmes in law.
Apprenticeships allow people to study for a work-based qualification which can drastically improve their future earning power and career fulfillment.
In 2013, we recognised the Government had a goal to increase apprenticeships as a way of upskilling the country. Accepting that the legal profession did not normally provide for such vocational training, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, we helped develop and launch the first legal apprenticeships in the UK.
We then went on to be one of the first firms in the country to take on legal apprentices. Over the last six years, we have seen a big shift in attitudes towards vocational learning, particularly with more people choosing the apprenticeship route first rather than university. Our first two apprentices have completed their degrees and are now trainee solicitors.
With the introduction of the Government Apprenticeship Levy, over 10% of our headcount is now made up of apprentices across our four offices. They work across each department (legal and non-legal) including Residential Property, Litigation, Private Client, Finance, IT and HR. The impact they are having on the success of the business is widely recognised by our governing board and all the partners.
This week is National Apprenticeship Week 2020 (3rd – 9th February) and I wanted to highlight the benefits apprenticeship schemes can bring to both law firms and individuals….
- Apprenticeship programmes allow law firms to future proof and plan with confidence.
- People can earn while they learn through apprenticeships. People who decide not to go down the traditional university route won’t incur high tuition costs. The rising cost of studying at university puts many people off.
- Apprentices bring a fresh perspective and often an intrinsic understanding of technology. They offer a great way of injecting new energy and creative ideas into the business, which allows firms to stay competitive.
- Learning on the job allows apprentices to work with professionals in the legal sphere and learn from them. Apprentices acquire skills that employers want to see and earn qualifications. It is also a great way to expand networks and make friends in the legal sector.
- Apprenticeships are vital in creating a stronger and fairer economy. They can help employers tackle recruitment challenges, including diversity. Apprenticeships should be as accessible as possible to encourage take up from under-represented groups and contribute to a more equal and diverse workforce.
- Learning on the job develops commercial awareness; a transferable skill that all commercial law firms look for in employees. In our experience, commercial awareness is not necessarily something that can be understood and developed at university.
- Employees trained in-house tend to be highly motivated and committed to the business. On several occasions, we have offered apprenticeships to existing members of staff when we have spotted potential. It shows that we see them as an integral part of the team and that we want to invest in their development and future.
- The role of an apprentice can help free up existing senior staff time. Delegating day-to-day tasks to an apprentice helps them learn and allows qualified solicitors to concentrate on key areas of work. Better allocation and distribution of work boosts productivity and efficiency within our firm.
Apprentices are vital to our business and a key part of our long-term business plans.