Case Study: Berwin Leighton Paisner

Mark Grayson, Head of Operations, and Lucy Gahan, HR Manager, explain how Berwin Leighton Paisner plans to approach the Apprenticeship Levy.

What are your main business objectives when it comes to the levy and apprenticeships?

Our key commitment is to the legal apprenticeship scheme, as we see this as an excellent way to bring talented 18, 19, 20 year olds into our business who can go on to qualify with us as solicitors. The legal apprenticeship standard ensures that their growth is well managed. The levy makes it commercially more straightforward to build the business case for employing apprentices. It also supports our commitment as a firm to opening up new routes into the legal profession as well as the value we place in a diverse workforce.

What types of apprentices have you been hiring?

We had a few existing legal apprentices and in 2016 we added more legal apprentices through BPP. The legal work they do is for the time being predominantly focused on real estate but they will be involved in other areas of the law where there are opportunities for them to do so. As they develop, they will work on matters for some of our biggest clients and the value they add is well-recognised across the firm.

Has your talent management changed as a result of the levy?

We are committed to giving the right work to the right people. This means that our apprentices get access to a quality of work they wouldn't get at another law firm. The legal apprenticeship scheme has broadened the range of talent available to BLP and its clients.

How many apprentices will you take on in 2017/18 and will their roles stay the same?

I'd expect the number to grow proportionately in line with our business. One of the challenges of legal apprenticeships, however, is that it is an annual process that forces us to make decisions about resourcing when we might not know for certain what our requirement will be in 12 months’ time. We are hoping that over time there will be greater flexibility built in to the process.

How have you managed the requirement to give apprentices sufficient time to study?

It works well at the moment. BPP have been very flexible around which days our apprentices study on and whether they are studying at university or remotely at home – and we can plan our workloads around that.

What role has BPP played?

They were very clear that they would support us as much or as little as we required. They did all our advertising and pre-screened candidates, which was invaluable. Candidates had telephone interviews with BPP, which allowed us to bring in preferred candidates to be assessed by us and we selected off the back of that. BPP are very flexible – they give a firm as much or as little support as they need from a recruitment perspective.

What advice would you give to organisations still working on their apprenticeship plans?

The critical thing is that you need to be committed as an organisation because it will be obvious when apprentices come to meet you if you're not. The apprentices need to know you are taking them on because you believe in them and are prepared to support them. Logistically, you also need to plan 12 months in advance because you only have one chance in the year to recruit. A lot more firms are now aiming to recruit talent at apprenticeship level. Planning is essential if you want to get the best. So the battle for talent is on.