Norton Rose Fulbright joins ranks of top firms offering legal apprenticeships
Scheme to identify talent in South East London and Newcastle 'important step social mobility journey'
Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) has unveiled a legal apprenticeship programme for school leavers in the UK, aiming to promote alternative pathways into the legal profession as part of its ongoing set of social mobility commitments.
The apprenticeship programme, which incorporates a six-year solicitor track in London and a two-year paralegal qualification in Newcastle, will kick off in September with 20% of working time ringfenced for studying and tuition fees funded by the UK government’s apprenticeship levy.
NRF is the latest leading UK law firm to announce a non-traditional path into the legal industry, as firms look for new ways to attract talent from under-represented backgrounds. Other firms offering similar programmes include Eversheds Sutherland, Osborne Clarke, Kennedys, Dentons, CMS and Dentons.
The firm said its environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles would be reflected in the programme’s recruitment process. It aims to onboard three solicitor apprentices and six paralegal apprentices from a ‘socioeconomically diverse’ pool of strong academic performers in the first intake.
In addition to traditional legal skills, the programme seeks to equip apprentices with specialist technology knowledge to reflect the legal industry’s increasing focus on digital transformation.
The announcement comes as the firm enters the 10th year of its firm-wide strategic focus on social mobility, which has included a number of initiatives geared towards diversifying its talent pool and promoting lower entry barriers into the legal industry.
“The launch of our apprenticeship programme represents an important step in our social mobility journey and comes at a time when a spotlight has been shone on the need for action to improve access to professional industries and progression within them,” said Clementine Hogarth, London corporate partner and a member of the firm’s first socioeconomic mobility taskforce.
“We hope that through this programme we will be able to open up career opportunities to students in our local communities in South East London and Newcastle and we are excited to see a new, wider pool of talent applying to be part of our firm.”
In January, NRF improved on its gender balance targets by promoting 25 female lawyers to partner, representing 53% of this year’s new partner cohort in a move chief executive Gerry Pecht said reflected the firm’s continued focus on diversity and inclusion at the partner level.
The legal profession dominated the Social Mobility Foundation’s 2020 UK Employer Index, with more than a third of the top 75 made up of law firms.
However, there was still a tendency among firms to recruit graduates only from specific universities, with 84% of lsat year’s intake having attended a Russell Group university – a grouping of 24 'world-class, research-intensive universities'.