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As the manager of an incredibly busy residential property team at BCL Legal’s Birmingham office, I speak to a lot of paralegals and fee earners who have completed the LPC and who are fixated on securing a training contract and I always ask the question, ‘why’?
I totally understand their ambition to qualify as a lawyer, but why a training contract? Why not pursue qualification through an alternative route? Given the lack of availability of training contracts, it’s incredibly important that whilst you’re gaining good paralegal experience, you consider other options. And there are a number of them!!!
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) both offer an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional training contract. Both are accessible routes to qualifying as a lawyer combining study with fee earning. A Chartered Legal Executive or Licensed Conveyancer can do everything that a solicitor can do in a conveyancing transaction with the same legal authority to act. They both offer a unique route to becoming a qualified lawyer to school leavers, graduates, legal support staff, mature students etc. Typically those studying through CILEx and CLC receive on-the-job training whilst employed in a law firm (and getting paid a salary!), whilst also attending classes in law and practice at accredited academic institutions or via distance learning with LPC graduates benefitting from being exempt from a number of modules.
The SRA scheme Training for Tomorrow is another viable option. Paralegals with at least three years work experience who have undertaken the LPC and the Professional Skills Course can apply to have their work experience taken into account rather than undertaking the two year training contract.
The legal sector is also one of a number of professions who are participating in the ‘Trailblazer Apprenticeship’ initiative. Prestigious law firms such as Addleshaw Goddard, Browne Jacobson, Burges Salmon, Clyde and Co, DAC Beachcroft, Dentons, DWF, Eversheds, Gateley LLP, Kennedys Law, Lewis Silkin, Mayer Brown, Olswang (the list goes one) are offering this solicitor apprenticeship in the hope it will appeal to talented young people looking for an alternative route to qualification. Apprentices will be paid a salary whilst training, learning on and off the job.
These alternative routes are by no means an easy option, but are perhaps more accessible than that elusive training contract!! So you see, if you are struggling to secure a training contract, you do have some very real alternative qualification options available to you. We have a sound understanding of these routes and are continually in open dialogue with firms looking to recruit into their residential property teams and for the majority of them, their main aim is to recruit a ‘qualified’ lawyer, be that a legal exec or licensed conveyancer! Solicitor status is not the holy grail for most!