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The new world of Legal Apprenticeships

Kate Hiller

by Kate Hiller, Legal Team Manager

This year we embarked on recruiting our new trainee and found that the world of legal qualifications had changed, and we were now looking for a legal apprentice.  With support from our colleagues in HR and our chosen training provider, we navigated our way through a new way of recruiting and we were pleased to see that the interest in the post was as strong as ever, which is a great sign for local government lawyers.

Our appointed apprentice, Charlotte, has been with us now since the end of August and what has been really interesting recently is starting to understand how the apprenticeship works and how it differs from the traditional training contract route.  I remember being a trainee and keeping a log of everything I did to show I met the relevant SRA skills, discussing that with my supervisor and then that being the final record of how I met the standard to qualify.  Now, we are in a new world of portfolios and exams, with overlap of what previous trainees like me would have covered on the professional skills course.

From my own point of view, I would definitely say it is a more focussed approach.  Whilst I can see some difficulties with the idea that the two competencies that the apprentices have to cover each term may not relate to what they have done during that period, I think it is also helpful for us as trainers to really think about what apprentices need to know.  We operate so differently in local government, as compared to the private sector, so we naturally have to follow a ‘what comes up’ approach (and let’s face it, anything could come up!) but having a framework of the competencies and a timeline for when to cover them does seem quite useful.

What I have learnt from this process so far is that it seems sensible to discuss with an apprentice what competencies they have coming up each term that they need to cover in their portfolio, so you can plan training and work opportunities around developing those particular skills.  It has also made me think about our induction process and whether we can tie any of that into the early competencies that the apprentice may cover, for example, explaining more around processes for assessing conflicts and risk, even though we wouldn’t necessarily expect that to arise so early on for them.

It is certainly a new way of training and one we as a team are embracing to support Charlotte on her route to qualification.  I expect there will still be plenty more for us all to learn as the apprenticeship continues!