Paralegal Apprenticeships

If a child decides they want to pursue a career in the law, a frequent reaction is Wow! Or Wow! adjacent. And much of that Wow! is based on a well-worn trope – working in the legal profession is something for the “elite”. It is true that there has been a lot of snobbery around the practice of law – both real and perceived – and it is well documented that the traditional legal professions lacked diversity and did not reflect those they were representing.

In recent years, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board have sought to address this particular issue of inequality and lack of diversity. Just as they had previously noted that ethnic and gender equality was extremely beneficial to the sector, they recognised that having legal professionals from all walks of life brings similar benefits, and this led to the first legal apprenticeships – the Higher Apprenticeships in Legal Services – being introduced in 2013.

Apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers either. The only age restriction is that an apprentice must be 16 years old or older, so an apprenticeship could suit someone older who is trying to get into legal work or even someone who works in an administrative or secretarial capacity and wants to change to being a Paralegal but needs to ensure that their training will be covered by the firm they are working for. 

In his speech on reforming legal education in 2012, the then Supreme Court President, Lord Neuberger, estimated the overall cost of entering the legal profession through university at around £100,000, including living expenses. He highlighted the inherent threat, saying, “A less diverse profession is an impoverished one, one less able to reflect and support a flourishing democracy committed to the rule of law.”

Apprenticeships help

The new apprenticeships brought new options to those who had not gone on to higher education but wanted to work in law and were put off by those high costs and no guarantee of a job at the end of it. After the success of the initial apprenticeships, four “Trailblazer apprenticeships” were set up in England in 2016, replacing the earlier ones. Among them was the Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship Standard, which continues to grow in popularity despite a few hiccups when it was first launched, including the End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) CILEX being sanctioned by Ofqual in 2019 following major issues with the first assessments in 2018.

The Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship Standard is now being completely overhauled, bringing many improvements designed to give the apprentices a greater foundation on which to build a career as a professional Paralegal. The new standard is expected to be signed off and launched in summer 2023. In addition, more EPAOs have been approved to deliver the End Point Assessment for the Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship Standard, giving apprentices, employers and training providers more choices for the delivery of the assessment. One of those newly approved EPAOs is the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), the UK’s oldest established professional membership body for Paralegals.

There are also moves to encourage smaller firms to take on apprentices. In-house legal teams can benefit from having a Paralegal apprentice, as can small specialist firms, such as for probate research or those offering Wills and succession planning services, many of which may be wholly staffed by Paralegals.

Paralegals are important

Many consumers cannot afford the fees charged by Solicitors and Barristers. Paralegals can do almost everything a Solicitor does, with the exception of the Reserved Activities, which includes things like undertaking litigation and having a right of audience in a court. However, they can help litigants going to court without legal representation by a Solicitor or Barrister, understand the process and ensure that they complete all the forms and processes necessary when they are facing a legal issue in person. If there were no options, such as Paralegals, to assist these litigants, and they would not have the money to engage a Solicitor; litigants would have to rely on the limited advice that the already overburdened court staff can give.

Boosting experiences

Paralegals are the fastest growing profession within the legal sector, so this experience can make the knowledge and qualifications gained during their apprenticeship invaluable to potential employers, enhancing their transferable skills and opening more doors for them.

Apprenticeships have shown their worth and are here to stay, bringing diversity and opening doors to those for whom working in the legal sector might otherwise have been just an unfulfilled dream.



Jane Robson is CEO of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only Paralegal body 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