The North East Solicitors Apprenticeship (NESA) programme has been shortlisted at the British Legal Awards 2017, during the ground-breaking scheme’s maiden year.

NESA has been shortlisted alongside seven law firms in the ‘Legal Services Innovation’ category at the national awards, after creating the first regional solicitor apprenticeship consortium where law firms have worked together.

Muckle LLP, Sintons Law, McDaniel & Co, QualitySolicitors Smith Roddam, Womble Bond Dickinson and North Tyneside Council have joined forces with CILEx Law School and City, University of London, to deliver the six-year apprenticeship programme.

13 successful candidates were appointed across the six legal practices within NESA and began their apprenticeships in September 2017. During the six-year scheme, the apprentices will obtain a law degree and the postgraduate qualification and work experience required for admission as a solicitor.

For the organisations involved, NESA presents a brand new opportunity to recruit and nurture fresh talent from an untapped pool of aspiring lawyers. For the legal profession, it means that skillful people are not lost to other sectors purely because of the cost of university education. Individuals who choose the apprenticeship route earn while they learn and qualify as a solicitor without having to pay huge tuition fees.

The 2017 awards, hosted by Legal Week in association with The City of London Law Society, will be announced at a special ceremony on Thursday, November 30th in Finsbury Square, London. They will mark the culmination of organiser Legal Week’s new two-day event LegalWeek CONNECT.

More than 1,000 lawyers from across the country are expected to attend the event celebrating the cream of the UK’s legal community.

Jason Wainwright, managing partner at Muckle LLP, said: “Through NESA we are creating opportunities to enter our profession, even if university is not an option for some people, and we are delighted that the consortium has been recognised at these national awards. The North East is proof that solicitor apprenticeships are possible for practices of all sizes and Muckle is immensely proud to be at the forefront of developing regional talent.”

Mark Quigley, managing partner of Sintons, said: “NESA has been instrumental in opening up the region’s legal profession to more young people, for whom university may not be a desirable or practical option, and we are very proud to be part of it. Through this initiative, we at Sintons have been able to employ our first two solicitor apprentices, Nathan Johnson and Leah Greenwell, both of whom are settling in very well and are already showing huge promise. We are delighted that NESA has been recognised nationally for its work in creating and promoting opportunities in law.”

Kelly Hudson, director and chartered trade mark attorney at McDaniel & Co, said: “It is great to see NESA getting the recognition it deserves which we hope will encourage future involvement from more employers in the region”.

Stephen Metcalf, partner at QualitySolicitors Smith Roddam, said: “We are very proud to be a part of NESA and we are delighted on behalf of each of the law firms, the city of London law school and the apprentices that the hard work, determination and dedication has been recognised by the British legal Awards. As a semi-rural based practice we believe that apprenticeships give great opportunities to would-be solicitors in communities such as our own and whom otherwise would not have the opportunity to access the profession.”

Sam Lee, head of recruitment at Womble Bond Dickinson, said: “We’re delighted to be working with so many like-minded firms, who recognise the need for alternative routes to our profession.  This is a fantastic initiative, providing excellent opportunities for the North-East region and we’re really pleased to see NESA being recognised in this way.”

Norma Redfearn, North Tyneside’s elected mayor, said: “It is great news that the NESA programme has been shortlisted for this major award.  As a council, we have made a commitment to provide opportunities to help prepare young people for work and life, so to see these efforts recognised nationally is fantastic.”

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