Trailblazer Solicitor Apprenticeship

Questions and Answers

Last updated: 14 June 2016

Q1. What is the Trailblazer Solicitor Apprenticeship?

The Trailblazer Solicitor Apprenticeship is a new legal apprenticeship, approved by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in autumn 2015.1

It is called a Trailblazer apprenticeship because it was developed by an employer panel2 as part of a government programme to reform and improve apprenticeships.

You can find out more about the Solicitor Apprenticeship on the GOV.UK website:

The Solicitor Apprenticeship is a level 7 apprenticeship which will normally take 5 to 6 years to complete.

We updated our Regulations in November 2015 to enable admission as a solicitor through an apprenticeship route. There is no time-limit between completing the Solicitor Apprenticeship and applying for admission as a solicitor.

For each apprenticeship, there is an apprenticeship standard, which describes the skill, knowledge, and behaviours required to qualify as a solicitor and an assessment plan which sets defines how the apprentice will be assessed during and at the end of their apprenticeship. The GOV.UK website also explains what level of government funding is available for each apprenticeship.

The solicitor apprenticeship standard is based on the Statement of Solicitor Competence and to complete the apprenticeship, an apprentice must pass a two-part examination, set by the SRA, the second part of which must be completed during the last six months of the apprenticeship.

The length of the solicitor apprenticeship can be reduced with the agreement of the apprentice, the employer and training provider (and the level of government funding reduced accordingly) if the apprentice already has previous relevant work experience, other legal qualifications, eg a law degree, or has completed a lower level legal apprenticeship, eg the Level 3 paralegal apprenticeship. But, even if the length of the apprenticeship is reduced, the candidate must still take and pass both parts of the SRA apprenticeship examination. There are no exemptions from this requirement.

If an apprentice solicitor is unhappy with any aspect of their apprenticeship, they should raise this with their employer and training provider, following the agreed complaints procedure. If after this, the apprentice does not feel that their complaint is being addressed, they should contact the Skills Funding Agency, which is responsible for the quality of all apprenticeships. The SRA does not have oversight of employers or training providers for the Solicitor Apprenticeship.

The following resources may be useful for anyone interested in becoming an apprentice:

 

Q2. Is there a Solicitor Apprenticeship in Wales?

Employment skills and apprenticeship policy is a devolved matter and the Welsh government has not adopted the Trailblazer approach.

However, a Level 7 Higher Apprenticeship framework leading to qualification as a solicitor was approved by the Welsh government in March 2015.

Q3. Can employers start recruiting apprentice solicitors now?

Yes, employers can start recruiting apprentice solicitors now.

There is a minimum apprenticeship salary but employers can exceed this. Employers can also set their own entry requirements although the entry requirements are recommended in the apprenticeship standard.

It is worth noting the following:

  • BIS update their guidance on government funding annually. The current guidance explains how employers should go about recruiting an apprentice and how to obtain government funding in academic year 2015-16. It will be updated for the academic year 2016-17.
  • To qualify as a solicitor, apprentices must pass a SRA apprenticeship examination. This will not be available before autumn 2019. The cost of this examination is not yet known.
  • There are restrictions on how government funding can be used. It can only be used to pay for the apprenticeship examination and training provided by a BIS approved training provider.
  • The government is introducing an apprenticeship levy in 2017, at which point the funding model will change. Apprentices will complete their apprenticeship on the funding model they started.

The following sites may also be helpful:

 

Q4. Do apprentice solicitors need to register with the SRA in the way that trainee solicitors currently need to notify the SRA of the commencement of their period of recognised training?

No, apprentice solicitors do not need to be registered with the SRA or notify us that they have started their apprenticeship. Apprentice solicitors will only register with the SRA when they are ready to apply for admission as a solicitor.

Apprentice solicitors will need to register with the assessment organisation, appointed by the SRA to deliver the apprenticeship examination. This apprenticeship examination will not be available before autumn 2019 and details on how to register will be published at least six months before the first examination session.

However, training providers must register all apprentice solicitors at the start of their apprenticeship with the Skills Funding Agency.

Also, as with all intending solicitors, apprentices will have to satisfy us as to their character and suitability when they apply to the SRA be admitted as a solicitor.

Apprentice solicitors do not have to disclose to the SRA any character and suitability issues which arise before they start or during their apprenticeship. Employers are expected to take account of these issues as part of their recruitment or appraisal procedures.

Further information about this suitability test is available in our handbook. The fee for this suitability test is included in the fee for admission.

Q5. Do employers or firms recruiting apprentice solicitors need to be registered with or authorised by the SRA in the way that employers or firms currently have to do if they were offering a training contract or period of recognised training?

No, employers or firms do not need to be authorised by or registered with the SRA to recruit apprentice solicitors.

Q6. Do training providers need SRA validation or authorisation to run the Trailblazer Level 7 Solicitor Apprenticeship, the way they currently need LPC validation or QLD authorisation from the SRA?

No, the SRA will not authorise or validate training providers for the Solicitor Apprenticeship.

In England, the authorisation of apprenticeship training providers is undertaken by Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), through the Skills Funding Agency, who admit training providers to their Register of Training Organisations. Details of how to be admitted to this register are available in the Skills Funding Agency register of training organisations.

Q7. Does the SRA have any specific requirements for the training apprentice solicitors receive in the workplace over and above that which is set out in the Solicitor Apprenticeship Standard?

No, the SRA does not specify the training for an apprentice solicitor. The Solicitor Apprenticeship Standard and associated assessment plan specify the outcomes for the apprenticeship training programmes. The SRA is responsible for ensuring standards at the point of qualification through the apprenticeship examination

Q8. What will the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) mean for the Trailblazer Apprenticeship leading to qualification as a solicitor?

  1. Our Board decided in April 2017 to proceed with the development and introduction of the SQE, with a target launch date of September 2020.
  2. The SQE will therefore be the centralised and end-point assessment in the solicitor apprenticeship.
  3. To qualify as a solicitor in the future, a candidate must:
    • Pass both stages of the SQE
    • Have a degree or equivalent
    • Have a substantial period of work experience providing legal services
    • Satisfy our character and suitability requirements.
  4. We will consult later this summer on new admission regulations to implement these requirements.
  5. Anyone who has started ,or is about to start, a Trailblazer Apprenticeship leading to qualification as a solicitor will be able to meet these requirements, as shown below.
Requirement Solicitor apprenticeship
Pass stage 1 and stage 2 of the SQE which assess the prescribed competences for solicitors described in the Statement of Solicitor Competence.

The Apprenticeship standard is the same as the Statement of Solicitor Competence.

Stage 1 of the SQE will form part of the on-programme assessment in the apprenticeship.

Stage 2 of the SQE will be the end-point assessment which must be taken in the last six months of the apprenticeship.

Have a degree

Or, have a qualification (including an apprenticeship) or experience which we recognise as equivalent to a degree.

This does not have to be in law or the provision of legal services.

An apprentice who has successfully completed the solicitor apprenticeship, which is a level 7 qualification, will have met this requirement.

Have at least two years full time (or equivalent) experience of providing legal services, in no more than four different organisations.

The experience must provide the opportunity to develop the prescribed competences for solicitors described in the Statement of Solicitor Competence.

The candidate must keep a training record.

The experience must be confirmed by either:

  • a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP),or
  • a solicitor working within the organisation, or
  • if the organisation has no nominated solicitor, another solicitor can confirm that the qualifying work experience has taken place.
 

The apprentice and training provider must keep a record of training which develops the competences set out in the Apprenticeship standard and Statement of Solicitor Competence.

To meet our requirements for admission, the completion of the apprenticeship must be confirmed by a COLP or a solicitor working within the organisation, or another nominated solicitor.

Satisfy our character and suitability requirements.

Anyone wishing to be admitted as a solicitor must satisfy us that they have the honesty, integrity and the professionalism expected by the public and other stakeholders and professionals, and do not pose a risk to the public or the profession.

An apprentice who has successfully completed their solicitor apprenticeship will be required to demonstrate that they meet our character and suitability requirements at the point they apply to us for admission as a solicitor.

There is also an opportunity to ask for advice about character and suitability issues at the start of the apprenticeship.

  1. Some candidates wishing to qualify through the solicitor apprenticeship route may have already completed the Trailblazer level 3 paralegal apprenticeship. These candidates will have to meet the requirements of the solicitor apprenticeship in full and will not be exempt from any of the SQE assessments. Depending on their experience and skills, they may not need a five or six year solicitor apprenticeship to reach the standard required to pass the SQE but they must meet the minimum requirement of two years.
  2. Some candidates wishing to qualify through the solicitor apprenticeship route may have already completed a law degree or a Legal Practice Course. These candidates will have to meet the requirements of the solicitor apprenticeship in full and will not be exempt from any of the SQE assessments. Depending on their experience and skills, they may not need a five or six year solicitor apprenticeship to reach the standard required to pass the SQE but they must meet the minimum requirement of two years.
 

Notes

1. Five other trailblazer legal apprenticeships have also been approved by BIS: Apprenticeship standard for a paralegal; Apprenticeship standard leading to qualification as a chartered legal executive; Conveyancing technician; Probate technician; Licensed conveyancer.

2. Gun Judge, Head of Resourcing at Addleshaw Goddard, has been the chair of the Law Trailblazer employer panel, working with Barclays, Browne Jacobson, Burges Salmon, Clyde and Co, DAC Beachcroft, Dentons, DWF, Eversheds, Gateley LLP, Kennedys Law, Lewis Silkin, Mayer Brown, Olswang, Pannone LLP, The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Simmons & Simmons, Stephenson Harwood, Thomas Eggar, Withers, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to develop the Trailblazer apprenticeship.

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