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Graduate Solicitor Apprenticeship vs Training Contract

While the concept of an apprenticeship isn’t new, there are misconceptions and some confusion that surround them. When I applied to Michelmores, I was originally set on pursuing the training contract route, as I knew very little about the apprenticeship route. However, as I learnt more about the graduate solicitor apprenticeship programme it seemed perfect for me. In this blog I aim to demystify the apprenticeship route by outlining the difference between a traditional training contract and a graduate solicitor apprenticeship and explaining how the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is involved.

As I am completing the graduate solicitor apprenticeship, which is for those who have a degree, I will focus on that. However, Michelmores does also offer apprenticeships for school leavers.

Similarities to the training contract:

The graduate solicitor apprenticeship is a fairly new addition to the ways in which you can qualify as a solicitor. It has been designed to offer an alternative route for those who have a degree (or equivalent qualification) and can take between 2.5 to 3 years to complete. As such, it works in a very similar way to the traditional training contract.

At Michelmores, I do the same ‘on the job’ work as a trainee and follow the same structure in terms of changing seats, appraisals and salary. As with the training contract, you must meet certain competencies set by the SRA and produce a portfolio of the work you have done at the end of the programme as evidence.

In order to qualify as a solicitor, you will need to complete the SQE for both the training contract and the apprenticeship. At Michelmores you study with the University of Law, and this is funded by the firm for both programmes.

Differences to the Training Contract

For the traditional training contract, you will complete the SQE in a year studying full time, before starting your two years of training at the firm. In these two years you will complete 4×6 month seat rotations within different teams at the firm.

With the Apprenticeship route, you start in the workplace straight away and complete the SQE alongside working at the firm. You will be given a day a week to study. As I had an undergraduate law degree, my course is 2.5 years, but if you have not completed an undergraduate law degree or the PGDL, you will complete a short ‘law essentials’ course before starting your SQE preparation making your apprenticeship three years.

The graduate solicitor apprenticeship is sector focused, unlike the training contract, and built around the area you want to qualify. At Michelmores, the sectors are Real Estate, Private Client and Business.

Which Programme is best for you?

There have been many questions regarding how firms value candidates completing training contracts compares with those qualifying via alternative pathways, such as the graduate solicitor apprenticeship. However, the programmes are valued the same and therefore should not be a factor when deciding which route.

I chose the graduate solicitor apprenticeship as I was already working and wanted to kick start my training contract without taking a year out to study and continue earning a salary. I will now qualify much sooner than I would have done had I chosen the training contract. I find that my ‘on the job’ work aids my university work as it enables me to put the theory that I learn into practice straight away. In addition, it allows me to earn a salary alongside studying for the SQE.

However, studying along side working can be challenging at times so the ultimate questions is whether you are looking to study full time and get the exams out the way, or do them part time and get into the workplace straight away. You should consider which programme suits you and your circumstances better.

It’s important to note that the structure of the graduate solicitor apprenticeship is likely to vary firm to firm, but I would recommend the apprenticeship route at Michelmores to anyone as the support from the firm and structure of the programme is unparalleled.