A day in the life of a legal apprentice – Ellie Walker, Bedford Borough Council

Ellie Walker is currently completing a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Legal Services (this programme was replaced by the new Paralegal apprenticeship) with Bedford Borough Council.

What prompted you to apply for this apprenticeship?

I was quite lucky as my law teacher from school posted the apprenticeship vacancy online. I was a bit anxious about applying as it would involve a 45 minute drive each way, and I had only just passed my driving test, but now I’m relieved that I made myself do it. I really enjoyed studying Law at A Level but I didn’t think that I would be able to study it at university due to the competition and expense, plus I didn’t feel like going straight from school to more full time studying. I applied for my apprenticeship while doing a gap year working at a local supermarket while I was figuring out what I wanted to do; I thought University was the only option and had never really looked into apprenticeships before.

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?

I didn’t expect to be trusted so much with the work that I do! I now work on some matters independently, which has given me such a confidence boost. To be honest, when I started my apprenticeship I had no idea about anything to do with property or working in an office. For the first few weeks I sent even simple emails to the trainee solicitor to check as I didn’t feel confident enough to send them! I find it crazy how much I have learnt in such a short space of time. There’s a stereotype that you’re not as smart as other people, or you’re not as successful as others because you did an apprenticeship as opposed to going university, but I have realised that this is most definitely not the case. The senior lawyers in my team have the same job title of Senior Property Lawyer and one went to University and obtained a degree while the other one didn’t. It shows that people who qualify through apprenticeships can be viewed as equal to graduates.

What sort of work are you doing in your job?

My daily tasks vary from opening and closing files, to drafting and completing legal documents as well as communicating with members of the public, external solicitors and internal clients. I also maintain my team’s matter lists. My role tends to combine administrative tasks, having my own case load and assisting my colleagues, for example with the post-completion work.

Do you find the work interesting?

Overall I find the work interesting, particularly as I am being trusted to work on more complicated matters as my apprenticeship progresses. It can be quite scary getting asked to do something I haven’t done before, but my colleagues have been really supportive and let me ask as many questions as I need!

What has/have been your best, most valuable or unexpected apprenticeship experience(s) to date.

I was surprised to be given the opportunity to work on matters independently. I have always lacked confidence and the apprenticeship has really helped to boost it. The most valuable part of my apprenticeship is that it has made me realise that I would like to pursue a career in law.

What do you feel have been the benefits of undertaking an apprenticeship?

When I started my apprenticeship, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do career-wise – I really enjoyed studying Law at A Level but didn’t think it would be an option for me as a career because of how competitive the process is going through University. I was never sure about going to university; I even applied to five and accepted a conditional offer to study Mental Health Nursing, but I deferred it for a year to give me time to think about whether I wanted to go or not. I think that I only really applied because in sixth form the majority of people were going to university and it is what we were encouraged to do. I didn’t like the thought of living hours away from my friends and family and the debt incurred. Now that I have almost finished my apprenticeship, I am certain that I would like to continue my studies to become a Chartered Legal Executive. I also feel more relaxed knowing that I don’t have any debt to repay, as my courses are paid for by my employer, and I am also getting paid to work.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship?

I would definitely recommend apprenticeships. You have to work hard but it is also so rewarding and beneficial and I have received so much support from my employer and from CILEx Law School. I would particularly recommend apprenticeships to people like me who aren’t sure about university – it’s not the only option! Apprenticeships provide you with so much practical experience.

This case study was published for National Apprenticeship Week 2018