Did you know that Dentons was one of the first law firms to offer legal apprenticeships? The Dentons Solicitor Apprenticeship programme allows you to earn your LLB while working full time and avoiding any student debt.
Over six years you’ll spend one day a week studying for the LLB at BPP University and you’ll work the other four days a week in the Dentons London or Milton Keynes office. You’ll get experience from eight different seats, spending between six months to a year in each practice area. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, you’ll be encouraged to apply for associate (qualified solicitor) positions at Dentons. You can find out more about the scheme and benefits on the website.
We spoke to two apprentice solicitors, to give a better sense of what it’s like to be on the Dentons scheme. Hal Donovan is based in the London office and in his fifth year of the program, while Leah Clifton is based in Milton Keynes and is in her first year. When they finish the programme, they both hope to be able to continue their legal careers at Dentons.
Hal was in one of the first intakes of the solicitor apprenticeship programme, and he was “initially reticent to pursue a path was as yet unproven”. However, Hal found that the more he looked into this alternative route to qualification, the more confident he became that it was the right fit for him. “Combining a law degree with a solid 6 years’ of work experience at a law firm was too great an opportunity to miss,” he said.
Leah was also attracted to the scheme because of the mixture of academic and practical skills. “This was incredibly appealing to me as I felt being able to develop critical skills at an early stage of my career would be invaluable,” she said. “I also loved the way it was structured, having a study day each week to ensure both aspects of the apprenticeship were being fulfilled and prioritised.”
Interestingly, Hal and Leah had different reasons for choosing Dentons. They both celebrated Dentons as an inclusive place to work. Hal said the inclusive environment was “apparent from the outset – something which was furthered by being among the first law firms to take on solicitor apprentices”, while Leah felt it was “an incredibly forward thinking firm that was committed to creating a culture of positivity and inclusion”.
Dentons was Hal’s first choice, because of the expertise of the firm. “In addition, for such a large firm – the world’s largest by some measures – I was taken with the personal atmosphere at the office and approachability of everyone I met when I attended an insight day,” he said.
Leah chose Dentons because she researched the experiences of other apprentices and “it was clear the programme was a success and offered a variety of opportunities for me to grow and develop as a young professional.”
Leah believes there are endless benefits for choosing an apprenticeship instead of going to university. “You still go to university during the apprenticeship and you still receive the same education, qualifying with a degree, it just isn’t full time,” she explained. “By choosing this programme your university fees are paid for and as a bonus, you are paid a salary. It is a great way to avoid the stress of debt and save towards your future.”
“You can consolidate what you learn through the practical work you do in your firm,” she added. “Another benefit is the ability to build professional relationships at an early stage of your career. You’re able to make connections with professionals which will become beneficial in your future career.”
“My favourite thing about being an apprentice is being able to do the job I have always wanted to do so early on,” Leah said. “Through the traditional university route, I would not have become a practicing professional for at least three years post-a levels. However, four days a week I am able to build up experience and get involved in the kind of work that solicitors do. In short, my favourite thing is that I get the best of both worlds, university and working in a law firm.”
Hal agrees that gaining valuable experience in a law firm before even graduating from law school is the best part of being an apprentice. “I feel I will approach qualification better equipped and with greater insight into the various types of law that Dentons offers. For example, we experience eight seat rotations instead of the standard four,” he explained.
“Throughout the six-year apprenticeship you sit within many departments across Dentons and in each seat you become a member of the team,” Leah explained. “I’m currently sitting in Corporate.”
Leah’s had a great experience, where she’s been able to develop her skills. “With more responsibility comes more client interaction which essentially ‘gets your name out there’ and build professional relationships with them. This is also a possibility through client social events.”
In Hal’s five years, he’s gained experience in Real Estate, Banking and ETI (Energy, Transport and Infrastructure).
The biggest challenge for both Leah and Hal is balancing their studies alongside their work at Dentons. “It can be difficult to avoid ‘I could have done more to prepare for this exam’ or ‘ I would not have missed an opportunity to get more involved on such a matter had I not been studying,” Hal said.
Leah added: “It was a big adjustment to separate the two, and manage my time accordingly. However, after a few weeks it became second nature and, although at times it can still be a challenge, you develop excellent time management and organisational skills.”
“When you’re younger, there can be a lot of pressure to choose the right career and selecting a particular path can be daunting,” Hal mentioned. “A six-year programme like the solicitor apprenticeship can seem like a huge commitment at the time. I would advise future apprentices to not to get hung up on the duration as time has very much flown by!”
Leah found the process daunting because she really wanted to land the apprenticeship. “My biggest tip would be to be yourself and trust in the things you know,” she said. “The process isn’t designed to trip you up, it just wants to know if you’re a good fit for Dentons. Ensure you have researched the firm and properly prepared for any questions you may be asked, this will help with your nerves.”
Hal is an apprenticeship in the London office. “It’s a great place to be and it offers endless opportunities for those starting out in their careers,” he explained. “The quality and breadth of the work I have been involved in since joining our London office has been fantastic and there is often an international element which is interesting. We are fortunate to be surrounded by great legal minds and have access to every resource imaginable to help progress our training and development.”
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