Michelle Blackwell, legal apprentice at Bevan Brittan

Michelle Blackwell, legal apprentice at Bevan Brittan tells us about her experience after six months.

What prompted you to apply for an apprenticeship?

As an individual who has always been quite academic throughout my school career and have been eager to study law from a young age, I initially applied to a range of universities and applied to a number of legal apprenticeships with the view that I would choose university as my first choice. Following a series of interviews through Vision Apprentices, I found that the apprenticeships offered in London were becoming increasingly advantageous to someone who wanted to enter a career in law without the debt of university and the fear of being unsuccessful in gaining a training contact post university. After all, training contracts are becoming progressively competitive in comparison to the number of students attending university to study law, which is a large proportion of students.

After receiving two unconditional university offers and an offer to work at a prestigious law firm in London, I chose to accept the apprenticeship as I felt I would benefit more from an “on the job” experience and receiving training and support to gain my legal qualifications at the same time. I was aware of how competitive the legal market has become over recent years and believed I would benefit more from being able to understand the dynamics of a successful firm and being able to display my competence in the legal industry, which might not have been clear on paper when applying for training contracts. The opportunity to work in London and working towards becoming a competent paralegal (after the two year apprenticeship) and to eventually qualify as a solicitor without debt and earning a wage at the same time, has really allowed me to mature as a person and take on new responsibilities and challenges that I probably wouldn’t have done until much later at university.

How have your first six months gone? Is the apprenticeship what you expected?

I feel the first six months of my apprenticeship have been very enjoyable and has allowed me to develop my confidence in communicating with people, particularly over the telephone, and has allowed me to become a better self manager of my time. The apprenticeship so far has met my expectations as I was looking forward to gaining on the job skills and experience, particularly in drafting court documents and communicating with clients. I have been able to take part in a range of different opportunities, such as attending court hearings, trials and recently attended an inquest, which has helped to affirm my interest in the legal industry.

What are your favourite aspects of being an apprentice?

My favourite aspect of being an apprenticeship is that I am able to develop my knowledge in a professional environment and the level of responsibility I am being given has slowly increased. I feel I have been able to mature significantly over the past few months and have developed an understanding of the daily work of a clinical negligence fee earner. I like that I have become better at self management and how to manage my time effectively as it has allowed me to feel more independent and be more productive on a day-to-day basis. I’m happy to be part of such a supportive and friendly team at Bevan Brittan and have been able to learn a lot just from being around my fellow colleagues.

What does your ‘day in the life of an apprentice’ look like? What are your typical daily tasks?

The typical tasks that I am expected to carry out vary day to day. My supervisor is responsible for giving me all my primary tasks to complete each week and will regularly request for certain things to be done each day if they are urgent to help me self manage, for example, requesting for me to make phone calls and chase up certain things by email. I am also given work from other fee earners in the department and the head of the department, Jo Easterbrook, to complete by certain deadlines to help maintain the running of the department. For example, one of my reason admin tasks given by Jo is to monitor the weekly matter engagement letter list and contacting the relevant fee earners in regards to sending out the initial letter to the client.

I have been responsible for a number of admin tasks to help organise the medical records stored; this has involved aiding the Floor Support team to record all of the files held in the medical records room and contacting the fee earners of closed cases to identify whether the medical records need to be shredded or archived. I have also helped organise a number of meetings and when attending hearings at the RCJ, I have been responsible for taking a note of what has occurred. In addition to this, I also have the responsibility of taking documents to court to get sealed, such as witness summonses and applications for matters to be listed.

What areas do you feel you are doing well in and which ones do you feel need a bit more work?

I feel I am doing well at managing my task list and self managing my time effectively as I am able to meet my deadlines at work and complete tasks to a high standard. I have also recently received IT training so I am confident in organising large lists of information using spreadsheet. However, I feel I could build my confidence further when speaking to clients over the telephone and drafting new court documents. My supervisor regularly checks all of my draft documents and gives me feedback on how I can improve the standard and quality of my work.

Has undertaking an apprenticeship had any impact on your life so far, if so how?

Undertaking an apprenticeship has impacted my life as I have become more mature by working in a professional working environment and developing my professionalism when interacting with my colleagues and clients. It has also allowed me to appreciate being given the opportunity to receive on the job training while completing my studies and gaining my qualifications. I have also gained a lot of confidence over the last few months.

How have you found the support you receive during your apprenticeship so far?

I have found my department at Bevan Brittan and the HR team extremely supportive in helping me develop my skills and provide me with the essential information and guidance to aid me in my studies and my day to day understanding. My supervisor had been really helpful in providing me with feedback on each of my draft emails, documentation, telephone calls and how I have been conducting myself when interacting with colleagues and clients, which as allowed me to reflect on how to work to the best of my abilities. I have also had the opportunity to adopt the demeanour and style of the fee earners in the department as I regularly listen to how they conduct themselves on the phone etc. and also have the opportunity to read documents written by them.

I always feel prepared when starting a new task as everyone is extremely helpful and I am able to ask and receive help whenever I feel less confident with what I am being asked to do. If I ever feel concerned about something, I feel able to speak to my supervisor.