It was interesting last night to share a platform at Alliance for the Black Country with Nick Skeet of Skills for Justice. He was talking about Legal Apprenticeships, it being National Apprenticeship Week.
“Paralegal” – what does it mean? Anything from someone who was a secretary last week to the holder of a law degree having done the LPC. And who is to say that the ex-secretary will not be better? While ability to do the job is the key, a reputation built inside a firm is difficult to sell to another without some kind of framework to enable comparison.
A legal apprenticeship will test candidates against a national set of standards (and of course train them to reach them). It will enable school leavers to join the legal sector without needing a degree, increasing diversity. Since Skills for Justice is talking to ILEx, there may be potential to reach chartered status, and even to qualify as a solicitor. Most however will not go that far.
I have thought for some years that there are too many solicitors, many of whom spend time on activities that do not require that level of expertise. This makes legal services more expensive than they need to be. Having another category of competent workers will return the profession to a more traditional structure of “solicitor and clerks” to the benefit of clients, and making law firms more competitive with Alternative Business Structures.
And of course other apprenticeships are possible in law firms, not least in the Accounts Department.