University is not the only option
My secondary school and sixth form was a grammar school so it was quite an academic environment that prided itself on its students securing places at Russell Group universities. It wasn’t really surprising that university was considered the ‘next step’ and that was really the only option given to us. I considered applying to university and even got as far as writing a personal statement and completing half of the UCAS application but I realised my heart wasn’t in it and scrapped the application entirely, choosing instead to focus 100% on finding a legal apprenticeship.
University was never really something that appealed to me. Whilst it might, to some, sound like the ultimate way to spend the last of your teenage years and the start of your twenties, I couldn’t help but think that there must be something different that I could do with that time.
Apprentices are rigorously selected
I started looking at apprenticeships as an alternative after one of my friends told me about CILEx. I applied for two legal apprenticeships and after several aptitude tests, a phone interview, a formal interview and securing the required grades, I was offered a position at Gowling WLG (formerly Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co) where I’ve now been working since September 2015.
The work is varied and challenging
The apprenticeship has exceeded every expectation that I had. Whilst I knew it was going to be challenging and varied, I really didn’t expect the level of responsibility that I would have – within the first few months of joining the firm, I was contacting clients directly via email and on the phone, drafting documents with supervision from one of the senior associates, working on matters with partners and meeting clients and other business contacts at ‘after-work drinks’. It’s really involved and varied work.
Now, four months down the line, I have several files that I manage and am the main point of contact for the client on, and I have just taken my first CILEx exam which I will get the results of in March. It’s fast paced, fun, diverse and dynamic and it makes what most would assume is a mundane 9-5 job really interesting.
A great networking opportunity
On a typical day, I will get into work at 9.30AM, switch my computer on and turn the voicemail on my phone off before sitting down and checking what’s in my inbox. Usually there will be a some in there from clients, some from my supervisor setting me tasks to do and maybe a diary request for a meeting or for in-firm training. The work I do can be anything from drafting letters or legal documents to getting in touch with clients and other solicitors, calling local authorities to request information, opening files… the list is endless! No two days are ever the same as there is always something new to learn or someone new to speak to.
The work is incredibly varied and so you can’t help but find it interesting. It’s satisfying to see the things that you are studying come alive in what you’re doing day-to-day – it really helps to motivate you to keep learning and being able to see what you’re working towards makes the work you put in seem all the more worthwhile.
Law is a versatile subject
The best thing about studying and working in law is the fact that law is everywhere and a part of everything and the knowledge and skills that come with studying and working in this field can help you in so many other areas. It’s very complex and goes deeper into society than we would imagine it does; I think that’s what you find out by doing something like this apprenticeship – just how intrinsic law is to our everyday lives. Developing a knowledge of how it affects and influences us is probably what I think makes the work so interesting.
Apprentices put into practice what they learn
For me, the opportunity to gain experience from day one was the overwhelming factor of why I chose the apprenticeship – if you’re someone who learns more by getting involved and actually putting what you know into practice then this would be a great opportunity for you. An apprenticeship combines the knowledge with the skill – think of it as a driving test – you could never pass with just the theory; you need to know how to actually drive the car too.
It offers me financial independence
As well as the professional benefits, there’s also a range of personal benefits to an apprenticeship. I can’t pretend that it’s not great seeing my pay cheque go into my bank account every month (it’s even greater knowing that none of it will have to come out to pay tuition fees and that I won’t be paying it all back in years to come). I’ve managed to book a couple of nice holidays for this summer and I’m saving to upgrade my car next year. The independence that you gain from doing something like this is fantastic. I’ve also met so many new people and made a lot of new friends. Don’t let anyone tell you that if you jump into the world of work you’ll never go out or socialise again – these lawyers work hard but they know how to play hard too.
School leavers should consider university alternatives
An apprenticeship is definitely something I would recommend if you’re not interested in going to university, or even if you are! Either way, it’s worth finding out a little more about them. School leaver programmes like this are fast becoming accepted as a well-respected alternative route into a career in law and they offer so many opportunities for progression that the differences in professional prospects for university graduates and CILEx graduates are becoming few and far between.
There is a clear path for progression
Legal apprentices who go on to become Chartered Legal Executives are now eligible to become partners in firms and even judges, meaning that the glass ceiling is really being lifted and new career opportunities are opening up every day.
Once I finish my apprenticeship I hope to complete the remaining modules for the CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice before I go on to study the CILEx Level 6 Diploma in Law and Practice. After I have completed these and have one further year of qualifying employment under my belt, I will be qualified as a Fellow of CILEx and be recognised as a Chartered Legal Executive.
This article was published as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2017