A day in the life of a legal apprentice – Jessica Parlour, HMRC

Jessica Parlour is currently doing a Paralegal Apprenticeship with HMRC. She previously completed a Legal Administration Apprenticeship, also delivered by CILEx Law School.

What prompted you to apply for this apprenticeship?

A family dinner oddly! If I’m perfectly honest, the whole idea of university never really suited me. I decided to leave college in my first year, as I felt it wasn’t a true reflection of my abilities. By 18, I was independent, living away from home and working full-time for a national charity as their Corporate Advisor. I enjoyed my job, but when I turned 20, I decided it was time to start a career of my own. I had been out of the education ‘loop’ for a while and mentioned this to my family. My grandfather said he had read in a paper that apprenticeships in law were beginning to be quite a “thing” (as he put it). This sounded perfect for me, so I looked into it and came across this apprenticeship with HMRC. After reading into it, I knew this was my best shot, so I went for it and here I am.

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?

Yes and no. I expected it to be challenging, which it is. I have fantastic support from my employer and CILEx Law School and am given plenty of time to study – however, you still are working full time and studying as well so, naturally, it was bound to be a challenge. There is a bit of a stigma that apprentices are used for generic tasks – mainly making cups of tea – but in two and a half years this has never been expected of me. Realistically, I thought I would be treated almost like an underling, but I am treated just like everybody else and recognised for my work. Everyone I have worked with is keen to help and give me access to opportunities to develop like going to court and sharing their experience with me. I never thought I would see the inside of a courtroom within the first three years of my apprenticeship, let alone the first few months.

What sort of work are you doing in your job?

I am an Appeals Officer Tthis means that I handle appeals cases regarding HMRC decisions at the tax tribunal. I have my own caseload and it is my responsibility to deal with and make decisions on those appeals assigned to me. Day to day, I am combing through evidence and records to decide how to proceed and build HMRC’s case at Tribunal. Throughout the day, I also talk to a variety of people including litigators, customers and the tribunal. If I decide to proceed to Tribunal I use all this information and evidence to draft our Statement of Case, using my legal knowledge and research skills that are developed through my apprenticeship. Once drafted, my Statement of Case is either sent directly to the tribunal or I send it to a litigator to assist their case at the hearing.

Do you find the work interesting?

Extremely! I make my own decisions and it sounds a cliché but no two cases are the same. There are always different facts and things to think about. I also get opportunities to go along to different training events and observe tribunal hearings.

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

My first would be being awarded the CILEx Apprentice of the Year 2016. I really wasn’t expecting to receive it, but at the time I was commuting from Southampton to London and getting on well with the apprenticeship and my work. It was nice to be recognised for this work and attending a CILEx graduation ceremony to receive my award was inspirational. It showed how much CILEx cares about the development of their members and the variety of people who do CILEx qualifications. The second would be the first time I went to the Royal Courts of Justice. I wasn’t aware that I would be given such an opportunity at an early stage in my career. I was invited along to observe a hearing there by a lawyer within the first three months of my apprenticeship. They had heard I was an apprentice and thought it would be a good development opportunity. It was so engaging and motivating to watch the case being put forward by the barristers and the work going on meanwhile by the solicitors, in such a prestigious building as well.

What advice would you give to anyone starting an apprenticeship?

I would advise anyone starting out to be confident in asking for things and to be proactive.

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

I would say the biggest benefit for me by far is the independence an apprenticeship gives you. Everyone knows university incurs debt and law is one of the most expensive degrees as well. I am working full-time and earning a salary, getting all the experience and knowledge to excel in a legal career, and all the while getting recognised qualifications that are necessary to progress. Because of this, I’m able to maintain a great work/life balance. It has really developed my confidence in things that you don’t learn in the classroom, such as communication skills, team work and general work ethic – which is crucial to success.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship?

100%. I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship and have done! I remember someone I went to school with commented on a Facebook post about my apprenticeship. I said it was great and explained what I was up to etc. I was amazed to then see him at the Level 3 induction event in London! An apprenticeship gives you opportunities that you do not get in a classroom and confidence that you are making the right choices in what career you want to do.

This case study was published for National Apprenticeship Week 2018