A legal apprentice’s view of the role – Vicki Melhuish, Kennedys

Vicki Melhuish, who turned down a university place to take up a legal apprenticeship with Kennedys, describes what it is like to have this role.

How does the apprenticeship structure work from the apprentice’s perspective?

As apprentices we get monthly to six-weekly visits from our tutor, who gets to see us in our working environment and meets with our supervisors just to check how we’re doing. The study we are going to work on with our tutor in situ will be discussed before their visit so that we can crack on with it on their arrival. We are then set work to complete in between visits.

And this is where it gets interesting. We then need to handle the work/study balance. This is nice and easy to begin with due to the workload that apprentices start off with: you allow yourself one morning or afternoon a week to complete the work and then get on with your current workload within your team. However, the juggling act can get progressively more difficult as the year progresses and the workload within the team gets heavier.

However, with the correct supervisor (not to mention the correct apprentices who don’t mind a bit of homework!) it is an easy problem to resolve. With regard to the study, we are able to work at our own pace and around our current workload in between visits, but can’t slack off due to the regular visits from CILEx which mean that we keep up on top of our timetabled work. This provides the perfect balance.

How have studying with CILEx Law School and learning on the job complemented each other?

When we reach the enlightenment that is the work/study balance you can stand back and realise that actually this is working pretty well. We are able to apply what we learn through CILEx to our everyday jobs and vice versa. What more could you want?

Whilst studying and gaining the level of knowledge that is necessary to progress, you are also gaining a large amount of specific knowledge in relation to the type of work that your team does. For example I work within our Motor Claims department, William works within our Medical Negligence team and Nicholas works within our Professional Practice team. We all gain specific knowledge that corresponds with our work but we also have the same level of knowledge with regards to our qualification and the same can be interchangeable. We also are able to expand our knowledge base through training and legal updates that are presented to the whole team, keeping us up to date with colleagues’ ever-expanding knowledge base too.

We are able to exchange our knowledge and keep developing as time goes on. This then works in line with our monthly visits where our tutor can see the progression we are making, be it with regard to our writing skills, how to put ourselves across to colleagues and clients, to our knowledge of the CPR and the Jackson reforms.

Not to mention the fact that we have all learnt valuable skills with regard to working in an office itself. This is something that we haven’t previously done (being fresh out of school) and this is also valuable experience that the average graduate would not have.

How does it differ to the normal route and how is it better?

This obviously differs massively from a university route as, instead of reading a book and sitting a few exams we’re doing all of that plus working. This benefits us as apprentices greatly as we are able to, after three years, be in the same position as a graduate but actually have three years of experience under our belt. I know who I would rather hire.

This also benefits the law firms themselves as they then have a new starter in every office that are young, fresh out of school or college, willing to learn and are ready to work really hard to get there.

Obviously I am going to say that an apprenticeship is miles better, as I am an apprentice myself, but when you really think about it, the fact that I, with a confirmed place at uni, would much rather take up an opportunity like this must mean that an apprenticeship is the way forward.