Routes into Law: Solicitor Apprentice
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
My journey into law has been a little abstract. I grew up enjoying and excelling at more practical based subjects such as science and sport, whilst trying to do all I could to avoid the more text heavy subjects such as English, history and law. I went to LJMU to study sport and exercise science and graduated with a 2.1. I wanted to continue at university to do an MSc in physiotherapy, but frustratingly I was unable to get on the course due to there being 14 spots and 500+ applicants. My backup plan was to complete a PGCE in further education to teach physical education and psychology. Due to a combination of a lack of enjoyment and a difficult teaching placement, I was told by my lecturers that I would need to go back the next year to finish the qualification. At this stage, I was very much in the frame of mind that I did not want to continue, and I would much rather stop the course at that stage to get a job to start earning money, something which is practically impossible on a PGCE.
So that is exactly what I did. I bounced around a few different administration jobs and a job at a bank, before eventually taking a 3-month temporary admin assistant job at Weightmans in Liverpool, working within a real estate team assisting in completing plot sales. There is a funny story about getting this role, I turned up to the interview suited and booted at the right day and time, only to realise I was actually an entire week early. Luckily the manager was free to interview me there and then and we had a laugh and joke about it and I was somehow still offered the job. I would say I knew I wanted to stick around within a fortnight of me starting. There was a great atmosphere at Weightmans and from speaking to others, I could see there was a big opportunity to learn and progress up if I put the work in.
I eventually got a permanent admin job working as part of an occupational disease team, which specialised in defending NIHL and asbestos claims. I was then offered the chance to study towards a level 3 CILEX apprenticeship to qualify as a paralegal. In August 2019, I obtained my first paralegal job as part of the Weightmans motor team, where I quickly progressed to managing a full case load defending litigated credit hire claims.
Whilst I was satisfied with the route I was on to become a Chartered Legal Executive, a new opportunity arose at Weightmans via their new “Weightmans Apprenticeship Academy” to become a solicitor apprentice in which I would qualify as a fully fledged solicitor, whilst also studying towards a Solicitor Level 7 Apprenticeship LLB (Hons) in Law and Legal Practice at BPP University before sitting the SQE at the final year. The opportunity to study towards a degree and qualify as a solicitor at no cost to myself, whilst also earning a salary in the meantime sounded too good to be true. I managed to get a place on the course after a competitive recruitment process, which consisted of online psychometric tests, a written application and an assessment day which involved a presentation and a formal interview.
That brings us to September 2021 where I have now started the course. Whilst I have only recently started, I am finding the route I have chosen to be a fantastic choice for my development. As part of my training, I rotate through seats at my firm in a similar vein to trainee solicitors. I attend BPP every Wednesday meaning I only work 4 days a week, which is great for my study time. As a solicitor apprentice, my firm also pushes me to get involved in some of the wider aspects of working in a law firm, such as CSR activity and networking events, whilst also receiving training in business skills. It seems that this route will not only get me the certificate at the end, but it will also be fantastic for my personal development, as well as teaching me the many skills required to be a lawyer.
This route is open to school leavers having completed A Levels, meaning 18-year-olds can qualify as a solicitor at the ripe age of 24. Whilst I am entering the process at a later stage in life and will not qualify until I am 33, I will qualify with 8 years’ experience as a fee earner putting me at a competitive advantage to other newly qualified solicitors. I had no idea that you could do apprenticeships in law when leaving sixth form, I would generally associate apprenticeships with trades or engineering. Schools and colleges love pushing you towards the university route, the question in my sixth form from teachers was what university you are going to, rather than asking if you want to go to university at all. Whilst I am not diminishing the university route that many do take and that route has its advantages too, I would encourage students to look at their options and consider an apprenticeship. You will be free from student debt and qualify with a wealth of practical experience, giving you an edge over some of your competitors. Just don’t turn up to your interview a week early!