updated on 11 February 2022
We sat down with Katherine Farrell, marketing and communications executive at Farrer & Co LLP, to discuss her experience with the firm’s apprenticeship programme.
Can you briefly describe your experience with the firm’s apprenticeship programme?
I joined the firm in 2017 as its first modern apprentice in the knowledge, learning and development team. After completing the apprenticeship programme, I was then offered a full-time role in the firm’s marketing and communications team.
From day one I was warmly welcomed and my colleagues truly nurtured and mentored me. Every day I was learning – whether that was basic office skills, such as how to file documents, use the printing system or set up a meeting(!), or more legal-specific training like the ‘what we do in series’, where I learnt about each practice area.
Fundamental to my apprenticeship programme was understanding the firm, how it functions, the different areas of law and the firm’s visions and values, and this was embedded into my learning right from the start – this understanding was key to my career journey and progress. I was also lucky to receive bespoke training. For example, when I first joined the firm, I wasn’t a very confident speaker, particularly on the phone, so I was offered vocal coaching training, which made a massive difference. Also, Farrer & Co is very much a community, and I was encouraged to be part of it; I became heavily involved in coordinating the firm’s charitable initiatives, which I still do five years on.
Why did you choose the apprenticeship route into the legal sector?
When I left school, an apprenticeship wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. My school encouraged the more ‘traditional’ route towards university, so I had limited awareness of the range of apprenticeships available. I did begin my first year of university but unfortunately after being hit by an illness I was forced to pause my studies and ultimately made the tough decision to leave the university system. At that point I found myself at a bit of a crossroads. In all honesty I was unsure of the direction I was going in and didn’t know what I wanted to pursue. I did know that I wanted an opportunity where I could learn, gain office skills, put my foot on the career ladder and be based in the city. And although it may not have been what I had imagined myself doing, I’m so glad I explored the options available.
It was only through word of mouth and slightly lucky timing that I found the apprenticeship scheme at Farrer & Co, and as soon as I stepped foot into the Lincoln’s Inn Fields offices for my first interview, I knew it was the place for me. I instantly fell in love with the firm’s rich history and got a real sense of the firm’s prestigious reputation. My sister, who also works in the legal sector as a barrister, provided me with information on the firm and the legal sector in general, so I knew I would be in an environment where I was working with the best of the best, with challenges and opportunities thrown my way!
Apprenticeship or university? It’s not an easy decision to make. Read LCN’s advice in this Oracle and take a look at the Law Apprenticeship Guide 2022 for more information on what you can expect from both routes.
How did your experience help springboard you into your current role?
My apprenticeship was an opportunity to learn as many skills as possible. I was mentored and guided by an amazing team who could see that there was potential to use my skills in other areas of the business. After completing my apprenticeship in business admin, I was offered the chance to join the marketing team as an assistant, which was a big opportunity to put what I had learnt to the test in a slightly different area to where I started. Because of everything I learnt in my apprenticeship, including a module on marketing, I was able to hit the ground running and continued to learn and grow.
I discovered a passion for marketing (in particular, campaign marketing and social media) and after a year I was promoted to marketing executive. As I progressed, I was given more responsibility and opportunities to lead projects and work on initiatives that are ultimately progressing and evolving the firm, which is exciting. The apprenticeship was a great place to start and helped me to establish and build relationships across the firm. I was also encouraged to take on extra-curricular pursuits, and the firm recommended I get my Level 6 Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma, which I completed in January 2022.
Looking for apprenticeship opportunities? Head to LawCareers.Net’s Legal apprenticeships vacancies page.
What advice would you offer any others who are currently making the decision between pursuing university or an apprenticeship programme?
To those who are unsure of what route to take, or perhaps don’t know what to study at university, then an apprenticeship programme can be a good starting point to your career. It’s a great way to see what sort of job role you may enjoy, and there may be an area of work that you had never considered but that an apprenticeship will offer you exposure to.
I was worried that I wouldn’t progress without a degree but, in reality, I’ve had the opposite experience. I’ve progressed quickly and have found my passion and hopefully long-term career in a short space of time. And if you are still keen to study, it’s entirely possible to do additional qualifications further down the line.
Meanwhile, you will be gaining invaluable skills and you’ll be in a professional environment from a young age, which in itself can have great benefits. In addition, I can definitely say that an apprenticeship can give a good work/life balance and a unique experience that university can’t necessarily offer. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience as an apprentice, and I know I will carry all the skills I learnt, and progress I made, with me throughout my career.
For more advice on legal apprenticeships from those in the know, read Level 7 solicitor apprentice Tia Treble’s ‘do’s and don’ts for legal apprenticeships’.
Katherine Farrell is a marketing and communications executive at Farrer & Co LLP.