Freeths’ Alternative Route to Solicitor Qualification
Freeths is one of the UK’s leading national law firms. Read on to find out more about one of their unusual and groundbreaking graduate opportunities, the Freeths Legal Assistant Programme, that saw a law graduate working for a top 50 law firm within a week of completing her degree studies.
Jessica Lees, legal assistant
Freeths thinks differently and this also applies to its flexible graduate programmes. If like me, you would prefer to focus on gaining valuable work experience before commencing your LPC or training contract, then the Legal Assistant Foundation Programme could be for you.
Applications are assessed through the firm’s contextualised recruitment system, designed to create a level playing field and support diversity and inclusion, reviewing candidate achievements in the context of their educational, social and personal circumstances.
I had my first insight into the culture and working life of Freeths LLP when I was allocated a mentor through the Freeths E-mentoring scheme, which I applied to in the final year of my law degree.
The scheme culminated in a day’s work experience with my mentor and I learned more about the role of a legal assistant at the firm and the Legal Assistant Programme available to graduates wishing to pursue a career in law.
Based on my experience, I felt that I would be a good fit at Freeths LLP as my own values aligned with those of the firm and I got the feeling that I would be valued and supported as a young aspiring solicitor fresh out of law school. I subsequently submitted my online application and after completing the interview process, which really sought to draw out my applicable skills and experiences, I started as a legal assistant in June 2016, just over a week after finishing my final year university exams.
What is Life Like as a Legal Assistant at Freeths?
I was placed in the Commercial Litigation department. The work we do in this department is incredibly varied and no two days are the same, given that the area of law is so broad, wide-reaching and often complex.
But on a typical day, I could be tasked with:
Preparing and arranging service of a statutory demand or winding up petition
Drafting letters of claim, statements of case or instructions to counsel
Collating trial bundles
Assisting with disclosure obligations and corresponding with clients and our opponents (often in an attempt to progress the case in the direction of settlement).
Time out of the office
Not all of our work is office-based. I have been able to experience mediations, case management conferences, application hearings and trials.
I have even done a site visit to a dairy farm in connection with an insolvency matter.
I also assisted in the preparation of an appeal to the Court of Appeal on a circa £1m claim and I was able to attend the hearing to make detailed notes of the proceedings.
It is a great experience to be involved in a litigation matter from its inception and to assist in its progression right the way through to its conclusion.
In addition to working full-time as a legal assistant, I have undertaken the Legal Practice Course part-time over the last two years, which was funded by Freeths LLP as part of the Legal Assistant Programme.
Having real-life experience in a law firm made the content of the Legal Practice Course infinitely more manageable and the process as a whole really honed my time management skills and my ability to work under pressure, both of which are key skills in the legal profession.
From a social perspective, Freeths LLP encourages the firm-wide attendance of legal assistants and trainees at a variety of events, such as cheese and wine tasting and bowling, to cultivate a relaxed and communal atmosphere among junior lawyers.
There is also a huge range of diversity, charity, volunteering, environmental and well-being initiatives happening across the firm, which junior staff are encouraged to engage with.
Advice to Applicants
The Legal Assistant Programme at Freeths LLP has re-envisioned the route to qualification by being accessible and providing an unparalleled experience which prepares you for life as a qualified solicitor.
I will be starting my training contract this September as a direct result of my joining the programme. My advice to individuals considering applying to Freeths’ Legal Assistant Programme would be to go for it!
Use your application to display your transferable skills – not everyone can obtain legal work experience but it is vital to think about the qualities you have developed through your studies or your part-time job and how they would be beneficial to the department you hope to work in and ultimately, the firm.
Words: Jessica Lees, legal assistant, Freeths LLP
Visit Freeths’ law firm profile to find out more about graduate opportunities with the firm.