updated on 18 June 2019
After leaving school at 16 with 12 GCSEs, I had been planning a career in travel and tourism, but soon decided I wanted to pursue a career with stronger long-term prospects. So, when I saw an apprentice role advertised at law firm Birkett Long, I applied and was taken on as a legal apprentice.
I combined studying Level 2 business and administration with working full time at the firm, and am now studying for a Level 4 Diploma in Conveyancing Law and Practice, which will eventually lead to me becoming qualified as a licensed conveyancer.
The great thing about undertaking an apprenticeship is that you’re constantly learning on the job, being paid and studying all in one. It’s a perfect combination for me and has given me the best possible grounding in what it’s like to be in a law firm. It has confirmed that this is what I want to do.
Of course, it’s not easy studying and working full-time, the work is very fast paced, but I enjoy that. Birkett Long has been very supportive, allowing me study time in working hours. It has also helped me progress in the firm, so it is worth it. If you’re going to do this you have to properly commit – a Level 4 qualification is the equivalent of the first year of a degree and as all of the study is done via distance learning and each module is completed at your own pace, you have to be disciplined.
In Level 4, you take five modules: the English legal system, contract law, land law, standard conveyancing transactions and accounting procedures for conveyancing transactions. There are webinars every week and three assessments per module, plus there is one final exam on accountancy procedures too. I spend a couple of hours every evening studying or about six hours over the weekend. I will shortly complete Level 4, which has taken two-and-a-half years and will mean I qualify as a conveyancing technician.
I plan to take a bit of time away from studying before embarking on Level 6, which is the equivalent to a final year degree and will lead to me becoming a licensed conveyancer.
Joann Kebbell, partner and head of HR at Birkett Long, oversees the firm’s recruitment of apprentices. She says: “We’ve been taking on apprentices for around six years, principally because we wanted to be able to give school leavers a step onto the highly competitive legal career ladder.
“We’ve taken on around 16 apprentices in total who have worked across different parts of our business including business development and marketing, administration, in our financial services arm and in specific teams, which is where Leonie has been.
“For us it makes complete business sense, our experience of apprentices is that you get very high levels of commitment, great ideas, strong motivation and a fresh perspective, which ensures we continually evolve and remain relevant.
“Most of the apprentices have stayed with us - we’ve lost a couple to large London firms, which I guess you can see as a measure of success - and it’s personally very rewarding for colleagues in the business to see school leavers grow in confidence and stature.
“My advice to other law firms is to give apprentices a try; our investment in them has certainly paid off. It’s important to ensure that you place them in a team who will nurture them, have confidence in them and appreciate that they have so much more to contribute than just administration. As for Leonie, she’s an outstanding employee and will make a fantastic lawyer.”
Leonie Slater, aged 20, is a paralegal at Essex law firm Birkett Long.