University of York, United Kingdom
University or Apprenticeship? Motivations for choice of pathway in qualifying as a Solicitor in England & Wales
The study explores the stratification of opportunities to qualify into the Solicitors’ profession in England and Wales, looking at the graduate route and the new Solicitor Apprenticeship route into Law, and how these are understood, experienced and negotiated by those from different backgrounds. The research is particularly interested in the experience of those from widening participation backgrounds (those typically underrepresented in the legal profession).
The research aims to challenge the notion that widening of the bottleneck to qualification as a solicitor through the introduction of the degree apprenticeship route is closing the gap in access to the profession for those from underrepresented backgrounds.
An inductive approach has been adopted using thematic coding to analyse the motivations, experiences and perspectives of those seeking qualify as Solicitors. The study draws on the sociology of education and of the professions to inform the discussion.
This is an interesting and timely study as there are significant changes underway in the Solicitors’ profession with the Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination (SQE) due to replace the usual university pathway from 2020 – will this level the playing field on access or increase the role of choice of degree institution?
So far, preliminary findings based on 13 interviews suggest that the choice of pathway may be influenced by individuals’ attitude towards risk with some viewing the apprenticeship as a guaranteed route to full qualification and therefore less risky, others held different views.
This is an under researched topic given that the Solicitor Apprenticeship was only introduced two years ago. As such, this research provides a unique insight into the perspectives of those seeking to qualify as solicitors in this new education and training regime, accessing their motivations for choosing the route followed and their experiences of it. A stratified sampling frame provides for useful comparisons to be drawn (Miles & Huberman, 1994, cited by Creswell & Poth, 2018).