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Apprenticeship Week: Student experiences

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we decided it was the perfect time to catch up with Teagan, Bethany-Jo, Catherine and Katy who are currently training to become solicitors through an apprenticeship. We asked them why an apprenticeship was the right choice for them and what makes it so different from classroom-based learning.

What made you want to study law?

‘I’ve been interested in a legal career ever since the sixth form when I started studying sociology. However, I left the sixth form without applying to university because I wanted to gain some hands-on experience in a law firm to determine whether it was the career for me, before dedicating my time to studying or training in the legal sector.

‘I started as an office junior and was in awe of the work carried out by the fee earners at the firm, particularly how their work was affecting client’s personal lives. I saw how the work meant a great deal to clients; for example, assisting clients through the administration of an estate of a late family member or aiding a struggling parent through rights to see their children. I loved how I could see the law practically assisting real lives of clients and how the law is applied in different ways to achieve the desired outcome. That’s when I knew I wanted to learn more about it and study it at a degree level.’ – Bethany-Jo

‘I’ve always had an interest in law, and for the last 17 years I’ve worked in a legal capacity.  Following an earlier legal qualification and gaining further invaluable experience I decided I wanted to complete a law degree and finish what I started.’ – Catherine

‘My passion for law started in school by watching Suits and reading authors like John Grisham. Off the back of this, I began to research the role of a solicitor, what they do, and how to become one. From this point, I had my heart set on law. As soon as I finished my GCSEs, I went to sixth form to study A-level law. I enjoyed this course so much I began doing my own independent research and reading. I felt like I was another step closer to reaching my goal and applied for university to do a law degree.’ – Teagan

How did you find out about legal apprenticeships?

‘I read in a legal magazine that some law firms offer an apprenticeship to become a solicitor. I didn’t realise this was an option, it had never been mentioned to me at college, nor at the apprenticeship/career fairs I’d attended. I did an internet search for legal apprenticeships and very few came up. I had seen some in Bristol and Manchester – I was so adamant I wanted to do it I was willing to leave home and do my legal apprenticeship in another city.’ – Teagan

‘I was approached by the partners of the firm I worked at who informed me about the new Solicitor Apprenticeship scheme that The University of Law was running. They said they would like me to consider the opportunity if it was something I was interested in. The firm often takes in trainee solicitors who have studied the Legal Practice Course (LPC) through The University of Law and therefore, they were already aware that the University was a reliable and respected place of study.’ – Bethany-Jo

Why did you choose an apprenticeship over a classroom-based qualification?

‘The traditional university route is by no means a bad route, but for me personally, this apprenticeship was the best option. A huge benefit is your employer pays for your apprenticeship. As well as this, you’re paid a salary. I’m able to do my law degree while saving for my first house, a new car and holidays. The most valuable part of doing an apprenticeship is that you receive on the job training that could never be taught in a classroom. I work on real cases, go to trials, prepare witness statements, and attend meetings and conference calls. As well as constantly being surrounded by solicitors if I need help or have a question.’ – Teagan

‘I chose an apprenticeship because I wanted to start a career from scratch, learning new things every day in a practical sense rather than sitting in a lecture room for a few hours a week. I also couldn't afford to go to university, so the idea of earning while Iearning really appealed to me.’ – Katy

‘When I found that I could study law through the solicitor apprenticeship scheme, I was immediately intrigued. I was already enjoying the practical side of working at a law firm, gaining hands-on experience, earning money and having more independence than school life had allowed; I did not want to let all these positive aspects go. Therefore, knowing that I could carry on doing all of those things while studying to become a solicitor was a no brainer for me.’ – Bethany

‘The fact that I’ve been in full-time employment in a legal role for 15 straight years (the last 6 of which were in a senior role) meant I didn’t relish the thought of having to leave work to return to study.  The clincher was that I could get qualified, while in work and not have to pay tuition fees.’ – Catherine

What’s a typical day as an apprentice like?

‘A typical day as an apprentice is the same as my colleagues – we work with legal documents, speak to clients, complete deals, carry out research…the list goes on. I work closely with my supervisor on a wide variety of matters and every day is different but interesting. I am a fully incorporated member of the team and have responsibility for my own workload.’ – Katy

‘The work done by me varies on a daily basis.  I am encouraged to attend law related events and meetings that pop-up but a typical day consists of me working alongside other team members and helping as required.  The type and complexity of work have increased slowly to allow me to adjust to the change.’ – Faria

‘Currently, I am sitting in my residential and agricultural property trainee seat. My day normally starts by reading over any e-mails that I have received overnight. I then prioritise these e-mails and deal with the ones that require my urgent attention and leave the rest to be dealt with throughout the day. My days are often very varied, so it is quite difficult to put down what a ‘typical day’ is like as no two are identical.’ – Bethany-Jo

What advice would you give to other students considering an apprenticeship?

‘A six-year commitment to the apprenticeship can sound intimidating but no two days are the same which keeps the daily work very interesting.  This dynamic opportunity is building a new era of future lawyers so I definitely recommend looking more into it.’ - Faria

‘Be ready to make a commitment!  An apprenticeship is a commitment, not just for you, but for your employer – making sure you're aware of that from day 1 will help you get the very best out of your experience. Also, apply for a company that you can see yourself working for – check out their values, their ambition, and make sure it all aligns with yours.’ - Katy

‘I would say if you’re unsure about an apprenticeship, go for it. There are too many benefits of this type of study to say no. You gain the same academic knowledge as you would going to university. However the value of having practical skills is irreplaceable. These types of opportunities aren’t common and you should give it your all.’ - Teagan

What has been the highlight of your apprenticeship so far?

‘I have been able to be a part of, or do many different things as a result of my apprenticeship. I have attended some really interesting and fun networking events. For example, some other trainees and I got to participate in a treasure hunt around Canterbury with a local barrister chambers. I got to meet a lot of interesting people and build some connections (which is particularly useful as I wish to do some advocacy myself in the future), whilst also becoming closer with my work colleagues. As well as this, I’ve recently become part of our duty solicitors with my firm’s local Citizens Advice.

‘I have also met some really lovely co-apprentices who I chat to very regularly and have built strong friendships with thanks to the apprenticeship scheme.’ – Bethany-Jo

‘The highlight of my apprenticeship so far would be going for lunch with a Queens Council Barrister. He had been instructing us on an ongoing case that I had been closely working on. It was really interesting to hear about his stories and experiences.’ – Teagan

‘A highlight of doing an apprenticeship with a council is the variety of work covered by Legal Services, for example: child protection, commercial and governance, litigation, property and planning.  As an apprentice, I will have the benefit of working with all the different legal teams during my course and gain invaluable experience that will help me determine my own long-term career path.  I have the additional benefit of being informed and involved in the daily affairs of the Council, its commercial activities in Bristol and its agenda of social inclusion.

‘The working environment of the council is very balanced with amazing people to work with.  Not only I have found a way to develop my skills and personality but I’m also gaining positive new friendships and a place where I belong.’ – Faria

Thank you to Katy at Gowling, Bethany-Jo at Hallett & Co., Teagan at Severn Trent Water and Faria at Bristol City Council for sharing their experiences with us.

If you’re considering studying to become a solicitor through a legal apprenticeship, you can learn more on our apprenticeship webpage.