Yorkshire legal firm Holden Smith has partnered with The University of Law (ULaw) to become one of the first legal practices in the UK to introduce a new graduate apprenticeship programme aimed at improving social mobility in the legal sector and helping candidates from non-traditional legal backgrounds begin a career in law.

The firm, founded in 2019 by James Smith, 31, David Bancroft, 35, and Jamie Megson, 32, has launched a Graduate Apprenticeship Programme in partnership with The University of Law to offer on-the-job training for the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), set to be introduced in September this year.

James said: “The new Solicitors Qualifying Exam stands to revolutionise the way in which solicitors train, while at the same time promoting social mobility and diversity in the legal profession by opening the doors of a career in law to people who may not have considered it or thought it was out of reach.”

Graduates on the programme will train on the job alongside their studies at The University of Law to prepare for the two stage SQE assessment while bolstering and developing their skills working in a legal practice. The University of Law has a long-standing heritage in professional training and has designed an SQE programme that is centred around building the skills of the future lawyer.

The programme will be funded in the main by the Government Apprenticeship Funding scheme with contribution from Holden Smith, with graduates earning a salary from day one and gaining work experience alongside their studies.

James added: “Up until now. the route into a career in law has been very prescriptive, but things have moved on. We welcome the introduction of the SQE because, as a firm, being able to recruit our future team members from a diverse talent pool is key to the future of our business.”

Matthew Tomlinson, Dean for Leeds and Sheffield at The University of Law, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Holden Smith. Their forward-thinking and agile approach in creating and developing a legal practice that is attuned to the modern world, and the diversity that world brings, really sets the firm apart and is completely aligned with ULaw’s goals of preparing and training students for successful careers.