Player, Purist, Pragmatist: a comparison of employability strategies in access to the solicitors’ profession via alternative degree pathways

Caroline Casey, Anna Mountford-Zimdars, Sally Hancock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Degree apprenticeships offer a new route to a degree in UK higher education, with policymakers emphasising their social mobility potential to widen access to graduate professions. In this context, this article compares the employability perceptions and strategies of aspiring solicitors on traditional university and degree apprenticeship routes in England. Following Bathmaker, Ingram, and Waller (Citation2013), we adopt the analogy of ‘playing the game’ to explore how aspiring solicitors negotiate opportunities and barriers as they seek to succeed in higher education and progress into the legal profession. Drawing on interview data with 23 aspiring solicitors, we consider how participants developed and mobilised existing and acquired capitals to position themselves for success in their future career. A novel typology of employability strategies is presented, expanding on the work of Brown, Hesketh, and Williams (Citation2004) and Hancock, Hughes, and Walsh (Citation2017). The typology reveals distinct understandings of the role of higher education, meritocracy and social mobility; and divergent strategies for enhancing employability. As degree apprenticeship routes expand in UK higher education and beyond, the typology provides a useful framework to compare transitions through higher education and into other competitive and historically elite graduate professions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Early online date16 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024 The Author(s).

Cite this