A day in the life of a legal apprentice – Leah Harrop

Leah Harrop, 19, Legal Apprentice at Horwich Farrelly Solicitors tells us about why she chose the legal apprenticeship route into law and how she spends a typical day.

Why did you not want to go to university?

If I wanted to be a doctor or scientist then university would have been my first option.

I always dreaded two questions, ‘what do you want to be when you’re older?’ and ‘what are you going to do when you leave school?’ The reason why I dreaded them so much was because I felt I could never truthfully answer them.

I went through stages of wanting to be a forensic scientist and then discovered the sight of blood made me uneasy; then it was a wedding planner but the thought of bridezillas scared me silly.

Once I discovered my interest in law, I did worry as I thought university was a necessity. Being away from home, lectures and student loans didn’t seem appealing to me. So when I came across the idea of a Legal Services Apprenticeship, I decided not to apply to university.

What attracted you to a Legal Apprenticeship?

There is a typical answer that many prospective apprentices would have read over and over again in answer to this question. It would have included words such as ‘qualifications’, ‘salary’ and ‘experience’.

The qualifications side of a legal apprenticeship was a huge advantage. I would be able to finish the apprenticeship with nationally recognised qualifications that could help me progress with my career.

The salary of course was another advantage of a legal apprenticeship. I liked the idea of earning a salary whilst gaining qualifications that would cost thousands if I were to go to university. I would be lying if I said the opportunity to earn whilst completing my qualifications didn’t contribute to my decision.

Experience is something you cannot buy. No matter how much you earn or how much your student loan is, you would never be able to put a value on experience.

But I feel there are two other aspects of a Legal Services Apprenticeship that drew me towards it. The first being independence. I liked the idea of going to work and being able to afford to go on holiday and buy the new Vauxhall Adam out of my own money.

And the second aspect was the opportunities. When working in a law firm I would have many opportunities available to me that no university could do and an apprenticeship would allow me to start my career in law.

How did you come across your apprenticeship?

I was sitting in my law class expecting to be going through an exam paper, when an employer from a law firm came in to talk us through a Legal Apprenticeship their firm were offering. She explained the requirement to have good grades, and I mean very good grades! Something I would have to work hard for!

From this day, I began to look further into the option of an apprenticeship, and was shocked about how many opportunities were out there!

Horwich Farrelly were not advertising for an apprentice when I contacted them. I informed them of the programme and asked them to consider taking on an apprentice and 2 months down the line, I was at my very own desk with my very own telephone!

How you spend a typical day?

Well my day always starts off with a cup of tea with two sugars (and a bacon roll from the canteen), whilst checking my emails and sticking post it note reminders all over my computer screen.

Then I go onto the fee earners’ diaries and try to help them with their workload. But every day is different.

I’ve attended conference calls, attended hearings and even had the chance to visit the Court of Appeal. Every day is different and it’s a good feeling when you feel like you’ve learnt something different.

You are four/five months into your apprenticeship programme with CILEx Law School, how have you found the whole experience?

I am a much more confident person now. This is due to the knowledge I have gained but also by communicating with different types of people. For instance, the thought of meeting barristers scared me a little, but now I am always excited to meet them (no matter how scary they may be!).

I have been told that I will be handling my own case load very soon, which is great considering I have only been here 4 months! To be given the opportunity to be trusted with my own files is a huge achievement.

How would you like your career path to develop in the future?

My aim is to become a Chartered Legal Executive. Sounds posh I know… my parents are thrilled that I’m not on the sofa and raiding the fridge!

With hard work, I will pass my exams and have the necessary experience to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive.

How did you come to find yourself in the firm you are in now?

The way I came to be working for Horwich Farrelly, was by emailing the CEO of the company! Horwich Farrelly was not offering the position, but I asked them to consider having a Legal Apprentice in their London office, and they accepted! Thinking back now, I can’t believe I had the confidence to do it, but if you don’t ask, you will never get.

What advice would you give to someone just about to complete their A levels and are thinking about a Legal Services Apprenticeship?

I know what it feels like when you are the only person in your class who is not applying for university. Everyone is writing their personal statements and visiting universities, all except you. At one stage this worried me, as the awful question, ‘What are you going to do after school?’ needed to be answered.

I had been applying for apprenticeships, but application dates, interviews and start dates all seemed so far away, I could never answer the question fully. But thinking about it now, this fact never knocked me back. I continued to apply for apprenticeships to get myself noticed.

To improve my applications and make myself stand out I completed work experience the summer before my last year. I wrote to what felt like hundreds of law firms asking for a week’s work experience. You will find that many firms do not reply to you, but do not let this set you back. When I attended interviews for legal apprenticeships they were really impressed by the fact that I had arranged the work experience myself and not obtained the position through my school.

All the hours I spent writing letters (handwritten works well!), emailing and ringing law firms paid off, as I managed to find myself two weeks of work experience in London. One of which was in Chambers where they let me attend Crown Court which is not something I would do day to day!

European Union Social FundIt helped me so much in my interviews as I had some stories I could tell that interested the interviewers. I honestly feel that if I hadn’t gone out and gained experience, I would not be sitting here today answering these questions.

The last piece of advice I would give, would be to not be afraid!

I am here today because I sent hundreds of letters and pestered secretaries for a response. So even if firms are not advertising, let them know about CILEx Law School and make them want you as their employee!