Future proofing local authority legal teams: legal apprenticeships and growing talent from within

7 mins

Over the last few years, we have seen a huge rise in remote and hybrid working – the result of this has been an extremely competitive legal recruitment market. 

Local authorities have felt the impact of this buoyant market more than ever. They now find themselves competing with private sector practices to attract the best talent, competition that may offer an attractive work-life balance proposition. Additionally, they could also find themselves in direct competition with a greater number of other local authorities, as job seekers spread their geographical net further knowing they don’t have to commute on a daily basis.

Sellick Partnership’s public sector legal team has witnessed first-hand the struggles of our local authority clients, filling their permanent vacancies with long-term locum placements.

So, how can local authorities transition their recruitment challenges, and future-proof their legal teams? One solution could be the recruitment of legal apprentices, that can be trained in-house with your specific business needs in mind.

Here, we have outlined some of the benefits of hiring a legal apprentice:

Cost efficiency

Apprenticeships often provide a cost-effective way to recruit and train new legal talent. By utilising the apprenticeship levy, an apprentice can earn a salary whilst learning on the job. This may be more budget-friendly for stretched local government legal departments.

Tailored skills

Apprenticeships allow local government teams to tailor the skills and knowledge to meet the specific needs of the department. Each team within the local authority will work differently, and an apprentice will be able to pick up a variety of different methods and processes, learning to adapt and work efficiently from the outset without any prior guidance on best practices.

Retention of talent and succession planning

By investing in training, and offering a well-structured career development path, a local authority can foster a sense of commitment and loyalty in their workforce. This will result in a pipeline of skilled professionals for the future, contributing to long-term succession planning of the team.

Encouraging and celebrating diversity

Legal apprenticeships may open the legal jobs market to applicants who may otherwise have struggled to find a route into law. This widening of the talent pool to local government legal teams can lead to a more diverse and inclusive workforce, bringing news ideas and perspectives to the table.


We recently caught up with one of our locum candidates, Rachael Meek, who works at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council as a Locum Commercial Lawyer. Soon after starting her placement, Rachael began supporting and training a legal apprentice that works alongside her, and believes that the assistance provided by the apprentice is invaluable – not only to their development as a legal professional but to the wider teams.

Q: What is your experience of legal apprenticeships?

A: In the local authority I currently work for, we have a legal apprentice rotating through the departments. They are currently based in the commercial department, which is where I am based. I have worked with and trained her on contractual matters including contract disputes.

Q: What are your perceived benefits of hiring a legal apprentice in relation to:

Your role as a Local Government Lawyer?

It is much more valuable as a Lawyer in local government to have someone who has hands on legal experience as they have experience of how the department and legal team works. They only get this through being given actual legal work.

The wider legal team?

It makes a difference to have someone who has experience across the different legal departments when the work crosses over. If necessary, they can link in to different departments and teams. Also, as they rotate across the legal department it benefits the wider team as they are grateful of the assistance.

Q: What advice would you give to a local authority considering hiring a legal apprentice?

Seriously consider it based on the point of view that:

  1. This person will likely be motivated and eager to learn, picking up new things and helping where they can.
  2. Looking at the longer-term plan, upon qualification apprentices will be trained and have experience in the legal working environment, rather than someone coming straight out of a post graduate course with no hands-on legal experience. This means that the experience an apprentice gains will feed through to future roles within the authority.

 Q: Do you think bringing on legal apprentices could offer a solution to local authorities struggling to recruit to more senior roles? 

It depends on the specific department the apprentice is based within. For some departments, such as commercial, they may be able to pick up work that doesn’t require a legally qualified person to conduct, thus freeing up the time of the Lawyers.

Q: In your experience, what skills or qualities can apprentices bring to a legal team that may differ from traditionally trained professionals? 

An apprenticeship gives you so much experience, which you can’t put a price on. An apprenticeship is a brilliant route into local government. The apprentice has a weekly study day, being based in a legal department provides them with the opportunity to ask any practical questions to back up their studies giving them well-rounded experience and knowledge.

The hardest thing about going into a local authority is understanding the set up; as an apprentice you learn all of this and once you understand the workings of a local authority, for example how decisions are made and how contracts are awarded, it just clicks.

Q: What role does mentorship play in maximising the effectiveness of apprenticeships for legal professionals in local government? 

Mentorship needs to be structured and thorough. For example, the apprentice I am working with recently approached me needing some guidance. I blocked some time in my diary to go through what she needed to do for her portfolio, but also what she needed to learn from a general knowledge perspective within commercial law.

Additionally, mentors need to be specific with the constructive feedback as this will help apprentices learn.

Q: What challenges might local authorities face when implementing apprentices into their legal teams, and how can these be overcome? 

The only challenge I perceive is if you are all working remotely, the apprentice may miss out on certain conversations over the desk which would otherwise help them learn and pick up on things.

This can be overcome by always being on contact via Teams as the face-to-face contact is important. As long as the structure is good, there is a plan in place, and they know what they are doing, this should be easily overcome.


We have discussions often about the impact legal apprentices can offer, proving them to be a strategic move for local authorities. Not only does it provide development for a skilled workforce, it also addresses resource constraints but providing cost-effective solutions.

By supporting emerging legal professionals, local authorities contribute to the community’s professional growth, while implementing a sustainable and knowledgeable foundation for legal support.

The Legal public sector team at Sellick Partnership is always on hand to speak to clients and candidates alike about the ways in which they can enhance their overall effectiveness and efficiency, and this could be one option open to you. Feel free to give us a call or email us on the details outlined below:


0161 834 1642