Applying for a legal apprenticeship

Do you want to start a legal career among experienced professionals? Legal apprenticeships, including the 6-year solicitor apprenticeship, are the perfect way to gain practical skills and real-world context on the route to becoming a qualified solicitor. In this guide, we walk you through applying for one type of legal apprenticeship, the solicitor apprenticeship - which includes a Law Degree and all the professional examinations you need to qualify - with top tips from employers about what they look for in an apprentice.

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Typical recruitment process for a law and legal apprenticeship

Law firms come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you're interested in specialist firms in areas of commercial property or criminal law, or you're looking at working for a segment of a larger business – there's going to be an application process you'll need to follow. Typical journeys can look like: 
  1. CV, applications, and cover letters

    Submit a CV and fill out some application questions or a cover letter. These tend to include your goals and aspirations, as well as your outstanding qualifications and work experience. This does not need to be legal experience. In online applications, there is sometimes also one short question to complete, where we will be looking at your motivations for becoming a solicitor apprentice. Pay attention to the word count: it is there for a reason. Ask someone to proof read your application. When you’ve spent so much time on it, it can be easy to miss mistakes.
  2. Pre-interview tasks

    Some of the largest law firms also add an online immersive assessment as part of the online application which will probably contain scenario-based, numerical and verbal questions that aim to test areas like your adaptability, digital intelligence, applied intellect and creativity. These assessments may require you  to give answers by video as well as inputting information by keyboard – the applicant provides a video response to a series of pre-recorded questions. A good tip on one law firm website is to have a calculator, pen and paper to hand before you begin.

  3. Interviews

    Face-to-face, phone, or virtual interviews withlegal and/or HR professional at the employer. The larger law firm interviews tend to take place in two stages. The first interview may be documents-based and the second scenario-based. In a documents-based interview (sometimes called a ‘case study’), you will be asked to review some documents and then discuss points arising. Some law firms send out written or video instructions in advance to help level the playing-field. In scenario-based interviews you are asked a series of questions based on scenarios you may encounter, so, in this case, as a solicitor apprentice working in a law firm. The interviewers understand that you will likely have no experience of offices, they are simply looking for potential.
  4. Assessment centres and psychometrics

    Every legal firm we consulted mentioned an additional recruitment phase at an assessment centre. This centre typically features various components such as a group debate, an interview with a firm partner, and an examination which evaluates capabilities essential for studying law. Furthermore, there is a chance to connect with existing solicitor apprentices and learn from their journeys. Collectively, these activities provide employers with a deeper understanding of your legal insight, communication abilities, and teamwork proficiency.

  5. Legal checks

    It's important to note that with the sensitivity of the legal profession, you will be required to either undergo or demonstrate a clean Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check as part of the application process.

Dos and don'ts when applying for a solicitor apprenticeship

  • Include any relevant work experience, for example, a retail job you have at the weekend or any internships you’ve done.
  • Show your wider knowledge of the industry, like podcasts you’ve listened to or relevant YouTube channels you follow for research.
  • Look at the company specialisms, for example financial, commercial or property law to discuss in the interview. It shows your understanding of the sector.
  • Be generic. Tell the employer why you want to work for them specifically. For example, their values and projects they’ve worked on.
  • Don't forget to say something memorable about yourself; it will make you stand out. This could be anything from the fact that you work night shifts to earn money, to explaining how you regularly play jazz piano in a hotel.
  • Try and fit examples in where they don’t work. If an example doesn’t fit with the question, you’ll need to think on the spot in an interview.

A day in the life of a Solicitor apprentice

A word from a a current solicitor apprenticeship

Research into the apprenticeship role you're looking at for is the key to creating an effective application. Take a look at our Day in the Life of a Solicitor Apprentice video and explore the day-to-day responsibilities of an apprentice in the legal sector.

What are legal and law apprenticeship employers looking for?

  1. Skills

    Skills are important, especially in client-facings law and legal roles. Legal professionals need to have the ability to retain complex information, stay calm under pressure, and have a keen eye for detail. Things you may have learned from project work, creative hobbies, or extra curricular recreational sports. 
  2. Resilience

    Although it's unlikely you will have any direct legal experience,  employers will still want to know about your professional and personal background, and how the skills you've picked up, such as communication, organisation, commitment and resilience, are transferrable to a high stress legal environment. For instance, the pressures of working in hospitality in a busy seasonal period will build skills in time management, efficient multitasking, and maintaining composure under pressure.
  3. Hobbies and interests

    What better way to display transferable legal skills than an insight into your hobbies and interests? For example, if you’re a keen reader, you hold the ability to focus and retain large quantities of written information, or if you're a sportsperson, you're ability to perform under pressure could be a star quality.
  4. Extracurricular activities

    Working outside the classroom is a great example of your overall character, and if that's in a legal environment, even better. However, if you're involved in a sports team, you volunteer for a professional service, or you've undertaken recognised schemes like Duke of Edinburgh, it can be a perfect display of your commitment to achieving a difficult goal.
  5. Understanding

    Law and legal firms are not expecting you to know the legal system inside-out. However, what they are expecting is a candidate who has thoroughly researched the specific apprenticeship, and the responsibilities it entails. So, make sure you do your research before applying, and if there's a contact on the application form, be sure to drop them a line and ask any questions that may have arisen during your research. 

The top five skills law and legal employers are looking for

We spoke to a number of solicitor apprenticeship employers to find out exactly what skills they were looking for from their ideal candidate. Here are the top five:

  1. Commitment
  2. Organisation
  3. Communication 
  4. Drive and ambition
  5. Time management

Common interview questions to expect for solicitor apprentice positions

To give you a head start, we surveyed a number of law and legal firms to assess the types of interview questions they might ask.

  • Can you describe the specific aspects of our six-year solicitor apprenticeship programme that motivated you to apply, and how do you see them aligning with your career aspirations?
  • Reflecting on the research you've done about our firm and the legal industry, what unique challenges do you anticipate facing during your apprenticeship and how do you plan to tackle them?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to demonstrate exceptional initiative in an academic, work, or extracurricular setting. How would you apply that initiative within the context of this apprenticeship?
  • The apprenticeship is a substantial commitment. Can you provide an example of a long-term commitment you have made in the past and how you maintained your drive and motivation throughout? 
Number of legal sector employers who prefer face-to-face interviews to virtual
One – three months
The average time it takes from seeing a vacancy to getting a job

Read, listen, and do

A word from the expert

Joanna Hughes, Director, Joanna Hughes Solicitor Apprenticeships
It is true that needing to make applications to each law firm individually is a time-consuming process, but if you are systematic about your approach, keeping a record In Excel as you apply to each firm, you can save time. Check out ‘City Century’ on TikTok and LinkedIn for both inspiration and application tips from current solicitor apprentices at large international law firms.

A word from an existing apprentice

Lamar Mukundi, Solicitor Apprentice, Norton rose Fulbright
Aim to demonstrate your best self as well as you can. What does this mean exactly? Well, I would say that you need to understand your characteristics, your strengths, your interests, and your ambitions. Authenticity and passion matters. If you’re able to authentically showcase yourself and link that to the legal industry and the particular firm, you’re bound to create a compelling and competitive application.

Examples to wow an employer

An example of a cover letter section

From an early age I've been interested in the legal profession. What started as an obsession with UK and US courtroom dramas has since expanded into a keen interest into real-world aspects of law. My passions lie specifically in the area of property law, helping to ensure that transactions, exchanges, and contracts are correctly prepared for clients. 

While I have worked in retail part-time over the past three years, I have gone out of my way to uphold policy documents and ensure that both the company and its employees are adhering to regulations whilst delivering a best-in-class service. This trait has led me to become a trusted source of knowledge, often providing training for other members of staff and regular stock check responsibilities across the business.

Why is this a good example?
  • Long-term Interest in law: Applicant has always been captivated by the legal world, a fascination that's grown from watching courtroom dramas to a focused interest in property law.
  • Practical experience: In their retail background, they have been proactive about legalities, ensuring policy compliance and delivering top-notch service, showing their grasp of legal frameworks.
  • Skills application: The applicant has modestly suggested they've become the go-to person at work for policy knowledge, training staff, and managing stock, indicating leadership potential and readiness for more structured legal training.
  • Commitment to self-improvement: They have demonstrated a self-starter attitude by seeking out opportunities to educate themselves and others on regulatory practices, suggesting a commitment to continuous learning and self-improvement that's essential for the ever-evolving field of law.