Day in the life of an apprentice – Sophie Fullerton, Cheshire West and Chester Council

The draw of work experience combined with training

Setting my sights on a high flying career within the legal sector is something that I have always dreamed of, but it seems now that it really is becoming a reality.

I am a 19 year old legal apprentice employed within Cheshire West and Chester’s Legal Services department, which consists of receiving practical on-the job training whilst additionally studying law as a student of CILEx Law School.

I began my legal career fairly recently, in October 2015, after having completed my A-Levels last summer. I enjoy learning and I have so many happy memories of my high school years. However, I feel that my final two years studying A-Levels were shadowed by the fact that I wasn’t entirely sure what route to take in terms of pursuing the career I have always aspired to do.

Why I chose an apprenticeship over university

University was always at the end of the tunnel for me, although when the time came to apply, it just didn’t feel right. With persuasion from my teachers, I followed the UCAS process half-heartedly to keep my options open, and did receive offers to study law and criminology from my choices. August came which was a prompt to pack my bags, but my heart still wasn’t completely set on the idea. I know I would have loved the social side as I love socializing and making friends, but at the same time I love living at home and being around my family as I am very family orientated.

Despite still being stuck in the dilemma, I was adamant that I wanted to continue in an academic environment, as I think it is important to keep my brain active. Subsequent to this, I applied for this apprenticeship early in September 2015. I never needed any convincing when it came to applying for the job, because it just seemed the right thing to do for me, confident from the outset that it was a good career route which held fantastic opportunities.

Apprenticeships open up a whole world of opportunities

Before I spotted the job advertisement, I had never considered working for a local authority but now I realize there are countless advantages to doing so. I am currently in the early stages of my career and I am aware that the path ahead is long, but I feel this apprenticeship has given me the best start to accomplish it. I am currently working towards becoming a Chartered Legal Executive, focused on working my way up that way.

Working for the legal services department of Cheshire West and Chester Council has so far been great and I feel that they have given me many opportunities to grow not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level too. The skills I have developed such as client care and critical thinking have sparked me to be a better well rounded person, even within the short four months I have been here.

This apprenticeship has definitely re-installed the belief that if you put your mind to something and have the determination, you will get there – the drive and focus which I lost over the past two years. I can only thank the people which I work with for re-installing the spark, as seeing them within their legal roles on a day to day basis inspires me to work hard in order to achieve.

My day to day apprenticeship experience

I work 37 contracted hours per week, whereby my time is divided by the office and the court room. On a Thursday morning I work from home, as I have an interactive session with my tutor in Manchester over the internet, which in essence is a lecture related to the scheme of work which I complete. The working week really does fly, which reflects how much I am learning as well as enjoying myself along the way. I no longer count down for the weekend – Friday always seems to come around before I have the time to even consider a countdown!

I study the academic side of the CILEx course mainly in my own time but also during work hours too. I am on the Civil Litigation pathway, and completed the Introduction to Law and Practice exam back in January, which I will find out the results for at the end of March. At the moment I am currently studying Contract Law in preparation for an exam which I shall sit in June, and so far finding it very engaging.

My job is challenging and very interesting, I do something different every single day which is what I love most about it. I regularly attend court, meet clients and go to meetings, which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do at this stage had I of opted for the university path. Going to court is the best opportunity to put my learning into practice, and gives me a firsthand demonstration of how the British legal system works. I have been working closely with colleagues across the department, which has given me a strong insight into criminal, family and employment law.

A chance to focus on something I am passionate about

In terms of the future, I am now for the first time ever motivated and confident with regard to what I want to achieve, and this apprenticeship has only made the broad world of law appeal to me even more. At the present moment, I am exploring the field in order to gain valuable experience and identify where I excel.

The topic of human rights is an area which has always fascinated me, since being inspired by my religious education teacher whilst studying human rights as part of the Religious Education GCSE course. Since then, I have always had a natural love for the subject and made a conscience effort to keep up to date with current affairs surrounding the topic.

Given my strong interest, I was thrilled when I discovered that I would be studying human rights as part of the CILEx course. This has allowed me to discover the subject in a broader depth and enabled me to build upon my current knowledge. One day I intend on combining my passion for human rights with law and becoming a human rights lawyer, which is my dream job. Every day is a stepping stone in helping me to achieve my ultimate goal, and it is purely down to the opportunity which this apprenticeship has provided me with which has installed the drive and ambition to set out and work to achieve this.

This article was published for National Apprenticeship Week 2016