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Expert Insight: Charles Russell Speechlys Apprenticeship

Take a look at solicitor apprentice Laurence’s insight into law apprenticeships, as well as what it’s like working at top law firm Charles Russell Speechlys!


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Laurence Whymark charles russell speechlys apprenticeship
Laurence Whymark, Solicitor Apprentice

Name: Laurence Whymark

Department: Corporate

University (Alongside Apprenticeship): City, University of London

 

How did you find out about the law apprenticeship route?

My sixth form was very against anything other than university, so it was difficult to access much information through them. But students in previous years had undertaken apprenticeships in careers such as accounting and this made me curious as to what was available in the field of law.

It was early January when I first started looking for apprenticeships online by doing generic searches and using some law-related websites. Some deadlines has already closed, so I was slightly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find any and that it was too late.

However, I started looking directly at law firm’s websites and using LinkedIn to see if there were still any that were open, and there were.

The generic google search of “Law Apprenticeships” gave me so many results that I didn’t want or need that going direct to law firm websites seemed the best thing to do,. One website lead to another and so on, until I had a shortlist of firms that I wanted to research more into.

What made you decide to apply for an apprenticeship over uni?

I applied to both university and the apprenticeship. I had four out of four offers, and I was all set to go to the University of Bristol, but then before I submitted my accommodation preferences, I researched more into what the apprenticeship was, and decided it was the best route for me to take.

The practical learning as opposed to just theoretical learning made the apprenticeship stand out; by the time that I qualify I will have had six years of practical experience being employed by a law firm, whereas my colleagues will only have two years and a handful of weeks of work experience.

This means that in interviews and on my CV I have so much more to talk about and so many more opportunities to show off my knowledge and application of the law. I will have a thorough understanding of so many different areas of the law that have been developed during my apprenticeship that my knowledge won’t be restricted to just what I have studied, but also what I have practised.

Additionally, I also get my degree and LPC (or equivalent), therefore I don’t miss out on the educational side of things either and I will have exactly the same qualifications as people who chose to go to university full time.

The combination of practical experience, theoretical application by practising at the same time as studying, and also the opportunity to earn a salary whilst learning, made the apprenticeship route much more appealing. Plus, I don’t have the same struggle fighting for a training contract as I already have one secured as part of the programme.

What does your day-to-day work as a law apprentice involve?

My day-to-day work involves doing anything that a trainee lawyer does. In my firm, the only difference is the qualifications that we have.

For the first year of my apprenticeship, I am in the corporate department and I do anything from writing letters to clients and other law firms, to delivering documents to companies, to drafting documents for various deals going on and I am even going to court for two small deals!

I enjoy speaking to clients the most as it gives you a sense of self value and worth; you feel like you are actually helping people and doing something useful when in direct contact with the client.

But similarly I also like it when I am trusted to do the majority of documents on deals; it is rewarding to know that things that happen are as a direct result of your work. In fact, it was very pleasing to see a deal I had worked on make the papers recently!

However that is not all I do – I also fit in study during my free time and in the evenings to make sure that I stay up-to-date with what I am meant to be doing both in terms of managing my workload and my ‘study load’.


“You can speak to people that you never would have met and get advice from people who otherwise wouldn’t have helped you simply because you are with them all day every day, something that wouldn’t be possible at university.”


Can you tell us a bit about how you study during your apprenticeship?

Within Charles Russell Speechlys, I get one day a week to study for the relevant modules, and the rest of the study time is meant to be all at home in the evenings and at weekends.

The university recommends 20 (ish) hours a week of study, so this works out at about two hours a day when you take into consideration one whole day being dedicated to study. However, lots of this time is spent reading, which can be done anywhere, on a train, bus or even in bed; it doesn’t matter where it is done, as long as it is actually done.

There is also the opportunity to study when I’m in the office; if there is no work for me to do and it is relatively quiet, I can do some studying from my desk so long as when a piece of work comes for me I deal with that first, then go back to studying after.

For me personally, I tend to try and do as much of my study as I can during the week as weekends are spent being sociable and playing sport, therefore I sometimes sacrifice a lunchtime or a late night to make sure that Monday-Friday I am working and then at the weekend I can relax a little bit.

The study programme is divided into four, five-week periods, with assessments between each two week break. The assessments are like coursework, but don’t usually (apart from one module) count towards my final grade, and they reflect the study that has just been done.

What’s the best bit about being a law apprentice?

For me, the best part of the law apprenticeship is the experience. It is hard work, but the reality is you’re in an adult environment with people who have been practising law for years.

Not only do you develop your own experience within the law, learning from everything you do from the very beginning, but you also get to learn from people who are at the top of their profession who pass down tips and skills to help you learn and become a better lawyer.

You can speak to people that you never would have met and get advice from people who otherwise wouldn’t have helped you simply because you are with them all day every day, something that wouldn’t be possible at university.

People are so friendly and kind that if there are ever any issues they will sit down and explain things and go through things until you understand, the stereotypical perception of lawyer is defeated when you yourself become one.


“The more people that know you, the more people are going to give you work, the more experience you will get and the better lawyer you will become.”


What’s the most challenging part of being a law apprentice?

The most challenging part is definitely time management and learning when to prioritise.

Time management is a crucial skill, but something you don’t fully learn how to do when at sixth form. I studied four A-levels, so my schedule was hectic, but that is nothing compared to a busy week in corporate.

Coming in at 9:30am and leaving at 5:30pm with a short lunch and having your day packed full of work to do is hard:

These are all questions that take you a few weeks to work out, but once you do, it becomes easier.

When you have an already long to-do list and then someone else comes up to you asking you to do something, you do sometimes wonder how you are meant to get it all done, but it is possible by managing time and prioritising.

But not many people, especially young people, know how to prioritise. I found a way around this, simply by doing what is due in soonest, first. If something was “due in yesterday”, then I’ll do it this morning, but if its due in next Friday, then you could bet on it not being done until next Wednesday/Thursday if you’re already busy.

Adapting to this results-based environment takes time and was hard at first, especially alongside study, as you don’t want to be doing long hours in the office and risk the study time. But after a while it becomes easier; it’s just about getting yourself into a routine and finding out how you think you work best, then ironing out all the small errors.

What’s your top tip for anyone thinking of applying for a law apprenticeship?

Before interviewing and applying, I would definitely make sure you do your research on the firm.

Some firms have very unique and quirky things that they like, or principles that they focus on, and if you turn up and don’t have a clue about these things then the likelihood is you’re not going to get very far.

Furthermore, make sure that you research a lot of firms, not just one. When you research different firms, apply to the ones that suit you personally, don’t just apply to the one/s that offer you more money or more employee benefits. The firm, at interview/assessment will see how the firm suits you, not just how you suit the firm, it has to be a mutual thing.

When/if successful, make sure that you throw yourself into the deep end and get involved with as much as you can. It’s better to get to know everyone slightly than just to know one or two people very well.

Networking events and getting yourself out there really helps – the more people that know you, the more people are going to give you work, the more experience you will get and the better lawyer you will become.

Find out more about legal apprenticeships and how you can secure one like Laurence >>

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