Legal Apprenticeships: enhancing capabilities, wellbeing, and diversity in the profession?

Caroline Casey, Anna Mountford-Zimdars

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This original study presents findings from a study of members of the first cohort of legal degree apprentices (LA). Introduced in the UK in 2016, LAs remove uncertainty towards legal qualification in an otherwise competitive graduate recruitment environment and could help to increase social mobility into the professions. We examine the impact of the LA pathway on the development of wellbeing and capabilities of apprentices and traditional law students through the following research questions: Does it enhance wellbeing when instead of loans, debt and insecurity, aspiring lawyers have a salary, no debt, and secure job prospects through an apprenticeship pathway to qualification? Does using a capability framework offer a meaningful lens for understanding the experiences on different pathways? The analysis adopts a capabilities approach intersected with an inequalities lens, to explore interviews with 23 aspiring solicitors, from different social backgrounds and at different stages of progression on the traditional university and LA pathways in England. The interviews explored access to and experiences of both pathways, particularly how participants were able to develop and convert their social and cultural resources into key capabilities. This provided a meaningful way to make sense of participants’ experiences. Capabilities were enhanced for LA students by removing stress and uncertainty around employment. This wellbeing gain was corroded for some by long commutes into work – often centred in London. Future quantitative research could establish whether on balance, the majority of LA students experience an overall wellbeing gain. The capability framework usefully showed how across the LA and university pathways, all participants valued agency and developing all capabilities. Social capital was a key resource for creating opportunity and a desired capability participants sought to develop.

Key words:
degree apprenticeships; wellbeing; mental health; solicitor profession
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Early online date18 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2024

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