In terms of the ‘academic’ aspects of the apprenticeship, there is a clear recognition that an apprentice needs to demonstrate the academic standards required for legal practice. The CILEx units, (developed for the traditional CILEx Level 3 and 6), are of a sufficiently wide range to ensure that courses are available in the practice area(s) which the apprentice will be working in, whether in private practice or in-house. One advantage of the apprenticeship route in an academic regard is that time does not need to be spent studying courses and modules of no real relevance to the area of legal practice being worked in. However apprentices who do want to continue their training can go on to study the full CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice which covers a wide range of law units and is the foundation stage of Chartered Legal Executive training, The CILEx Level 3 units I studied in my apprenticeship will contribute to this if I want to continue my studies.
Undoubtedly, the great thing about CILEx Law School, as I have come to know over the last months is the tremendous flexibility they offer for learning. The provision of webinars is extremely convenient for someone in a full time job, and the standards of teaching at the traditional face-to-face sessions are of a very high quality. The fact that a Level 3 course syllabus is deliverable in 4 x 1 hour sessions puts a heavy emphasis on the student ‘filling in the gaps’ in their own study time. This approach seeks to engage the student to take an active role in their learning, which avoids them being mollycoddled!
One of the common questions that people ask me goes a little something like this: ‘How does the apprenticeship route compensate for the LPC?’ The reality is that the competency units enable one to start building up the skills that the LPC ultimately targets: drafting, liaising with clients, and legal research.
From a potential employer’s point of view, they may be encouraged to know that regardless of practice area, their apprentice can begin drafting legal documents of the most varied range from the offset. Within the last year, I have been fortunate to produce drafts of engagement letters, articles of associations of new companies, charity commission applications, and others. The competency units ensure that the fundamental principles of document drafting are both understood and put into practice.
Notably, the emphasis on knowing how to use document precedents, and make decisions about what and what does not need to be altered from the precedent on a matter by matter basis.
Research tasks form a large part of paralegal work. It is therefore necessary to understand how to streamline the very wide choice of legal research resources which are at one’s disposal. CILEx Level 3 Unit 17 (Legal Research) ensures that the apprentice understands these principles; the standard of my legal research tasks has improved greatly since working on Unit 17.
Providing that the right level of supervision is in place, I believe that there is no reason even from the initial weeks of the apprenticeship why the apprentice cannot begin having correspondence with clients – the competency units provide ample opportunity to learn the requirements of professional client care and contact. In my own experience, after time, the apprentice gets a feel for the correct style and tone needed for good correspondence. Consequently, fee earners become more confident in the apprentice’s abilities, putting greater trust in the apprentice in turn.
I have had a great year on the Level 3, and look forward to getting increasingly more units signed off! CILEx are truly creating a ground breaking, and much needed, alternative route to becoming a lawyer.
Alex Hirsh is a legal apprentice in the Commercial practice group at Withers LLP in London.