Taylor&Emmet became one of the first three South Yorkshire firms to offer legal secretarial apprenticeships last year.
The scheme, with BPP Law School in Leeds, has been devised to give school-leavers an alternative route into the profession by studying for a Chartered Institute of Legal Executives certificate for legal secretaries, which is the equivalent to a National Vocational Qualification level three.
T&E’s first intake of three started at the firm in September 2013 on fixed term contracts, which were due to expire in November 2014, but they have now been extended into next year.
One of the apprentices dropped out after nine months but Sophie Clithero and Saskia Bex are relishing the opportunity. Sophie, who is working in the firm’s commercial property department, was 17 and had completed a year of sixth form when she joined T&E’s business legal services team. Saskia was 16 and came straight after her studies at Ecclesfield School.
Both girls work five days a week, under the guidance of mentors who are experienced legal secretaries.
They study for the CILEx qualification at home and are given some time during the working day. Every couple of months, they are visited by an assessor from BPP.
“In the 12 months since they joined T&E, both girls have developed practical skills and are mature, professional additions to the team,” said Sharna Poxon, Taylor&Emmet’s HR manager.
“Although they have been common in manufacturing industries for more than 100 years, the concept of legal apprenticeships is very new and Taylor&Emmet is very proud to be one of the first firms in Sheffield to appoint apprentices.
“The job market has transformed dramatically during the last decade and we are seeing a return to the days when school-leavers were articled and began earning a living before embarking on their personal development.
“Our apprentices are being exposed to the real world of work, which is arming them with invaluable skills and knowledge of a professional environment.
“By the time university graduates hit the job market, our apprentices will have five years of work experience, making them far more desirable to businesses looking to recruit.
“We hope our current apprentices remain with us until their tenure ends. Long term, we would like them to develop their skills, and to become permanent members of staff, either as solicitors or part of our support teams, for example pursuing marketing, IT, administration or secretarial roles.”
The firm considers the scheme so successful it hopes to set on more apprentices in autumn 2015.