Apprenticeships have been around for hundreds of years. They were started in England by the Statute of Artificers in 1563.

Whilst the popularity of apprenticeships declined in the early 1900s, they have seen a resurgence thanks to the introduction of Modern Apprenticeships in 1992, providing more opportunities for school leavers in a wider variety of careers. This has been expanded and improved upon over subsequent years and today we have apprenticeships at all levels from Level 2 to Level 6 (which is considered the equivalent to a Degree) and for all ages.

The number, and type, of professions embracing apprenticeships has also grown considerably and the legal sector is one of those that has recognised the opportunities these apprenticeships provide, not only to the apprentice, but to the firms who employ them and nurture their skills and passion for the profession.

Why be an apprentice?

Why should someone choose a legal apprenticeship over the more traditional route of going to university for a degree? Firstly, university isn’t for everyone. This can be for a multitude of reasons, but one of the biggest concerns is the cost. According to the UK Government’s own statistics, students who started their course in 2022/23 will have an average debt of £45,600 by the time they complete it, so there is cause to pause before committing to such a long term financial burden.

For others, university life may not appeal. When I was 16, I couldn’t wait to get out of an educational setting and into the ‘real’ world. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and it took a good few years before I happened to work for someone who saw my potential and provided the training and opportunity that I needed to undertake the qualifications required to get where I am today. 

Everybody’s journey is different and having apprenticeships open for everyone, of all ages, is a great alternative for those who either didn't or don’t want to go to university but do want to work in the legal field.

Of course, we have to acknowledge that the pay for an apprentice is not always brilliant. Some employers pay a reasonable wage, but others adhere to the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices of £5.28 per hour (age 16-18 or 19+ after you have completed your first year of apprenticeship). However, on the plus-side, apprentices will gain real experience in working in the legal profession as well as having at least 20% of their time dedicated to training and studying towards their End Point Assessment and any other qualifications they may take to support their career, which also counts as payable time.

Even if an individual doesn’t have the minimum English or Maths qualifications required to take an apprenticeship, those qualifications will be paid for as part of the apprenticeship and sufficient study time must be provided during normal working hours to accomplish this.

If an apprentice undertakes the Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship, they will come out with, on average, two years’ experience of working in the legal sector, as well as a certificate that they have achieved the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to successfully complete their apprenticeship.

In many other cases they may well have also achieved another recognised qualification alongside their apprenticeship, such as the NALP Level 3 Certificate for Paralegal Technicians and can therefore be eligible for membership to a Professional Membership body, such as the NALP Paralegal Technician membership.

All of this serves to increase the apprentice’s market value when looking for a permanent position in the legal sector or when negotiating their advancement at the organisation where they undertook their apprenticeship.

Getting Started

If you are looking for apprenticeship opportunities to help you gain a footing in your law career, the best place to start is the Government website at Find an Apprenticeship ( This will also provide you with additional information about how apprenticeships work, regardless of your age.

Another excellent resource is on the Apprenticeships website where you can enter your subject of interest and your postcode and browse apprenticeships before you apply.

Apprenticeships are also often advertised on the usual job sites and at local job centres.


Jane Robson is CEO of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres around the country, accredited and recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal professional.


Twitter: @NALP_UK


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