Meet the Apprentice

Tim Kennedy is completing the articled route to qualification at Mayer Brown LLP
Ellie Clarkson is a paralegal apprentice at Irwin Mitchell LLP

Tim Kennedy is currently in the litigation and dispute resolution group at Mayer Brown LLP.

How did you find out about/research the legal apprenticeship route?

I knew wanted to be a lawyer, but I didn't think an apprenticeship route would be an option for me. I was researching my career options when Mayer Brown's articled route to qualification scheme leaped out at me. When I learned what this qualification route had to offer I was very keen to apply.

What about the route appealed?

I wasn’t keen to continue with full-time academic study, as I didn't want to be stuck in a classroom. Equally, I knew I needed a degree to pursue the career path that I wanted. Mayer Brown's articled route scheme offered the best of both worlds, as it would enable me to gain hands-on experience working four days a week at a big international firm, while studying for a degree at the same time. I was keen to get into the actual practice of law right away, balancing my studies alongside this.

What do you do day to day?

It depends on the practice area that I am sitting in. I am currently in the litigation and dispute resolution group, working with the insurance and reinsurance team. We typically represent big insurers, through which we defend banks, accountancy firms and other financial institutions from a range of claims, for example, professional negligence claims. I am currently working on an interesting case defending an auditor against alleged fraud. Apprenticeships and vocational schemes, such as the one that I am doing at Mayer Brown, allow you to see and try everything. I particularly enjoy litigation because of the competitive, back-and-forth element to the work.

What do you most enjoy – and find the most challenging – about your apprenticeship?

The standout feature of the scheme that I am on – as well as the most challenging – is the responsibility placed on me. I’m at a major firm with big clients, doing high-quality work. Although I’m relatively inexperienced, the firm has enabled me to be fully involved in cases and I play an important role in the team. This comes with pressure, of course, which reflects the high value and importance of the cases we work on.

What is your best piece of advice for those considering applying for a legal apprenticeship?

There are three key things that people need to know when considering a vocational qualification route. Firstly, you need to appreciate what being a lawyer entails day-to-day. It isn’t always the most glamorous job. There will be late nights spent putting together court bundles and it can be stressful, as well as hugely enjoyable – it depends on what suits you as an individual. Secondly, given that the commitment is six years, it is so important that you think about whether it is the right fit for you. Finally, it is vital for applicants learn as much as they can about a firm before they apply. For example, if you are interested in criminal law, you should not be applying to a firm like Mayer Brown, which focuses on commercial law. And if you are set on working in the City, representing big businesses and banks, you still need to dig down further to understand the nuances between the large commercial firms – on the surface they might look identical, but each one is unique in their culture, focus and identity.

From September 2018, the scheme at Mayer Brown is moving from the ‘articled route to qualification’ to the government’s ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeship programme.

For more detail, see Mayer Brown's LawCareers.Net profile

Ellie Clarkson is a paralegal apprentice at Irwin Mitchell LLP, currently working in the firm's commercial litigation department.

How did you find out about the legal apprenticeship route?

I originally heard about the route while completing my final year at  sixth form college. Legal apprenticeships were pretty new at the time, so I did a lot of research online, including on the government apprenticeship website and CILEx. That gave me an insight into what a legal apprenticeship is, which area of law might be right for me, and whether I could still qualify as a solicitor through the apprenticeship route. I then started to look for vacancies through traditional recruitment sites and on firms’ own websites.

What about the route appealed?

From working since I was 13, I have always had a strong work ethic, so although I attended open days at universities and was offered places at four Russell Group universities, I decided that it wasn’t the best route for me. I didn’t want to be told about the law in a lecture theatre – I wanted to do it! The opportunity  to obtain  practical experience in such a competitive sector was appealing. I spoke to lots of people at university who were concerned about attaining  a job after their degree as they felt they lacked practical experience.  In comparison, I now already have two years’ experience in a law firm, working on my own client files.

You are also earning while you learn – the four-year degree that I was considering, inclusive of student living costs and the LPC, would have been around £60,000. Compare that to an average apprentice salary of between £15,000 and £19,000 annually, I can earn in four years what I would have accrued in debt in the same period.

What do you do day to day?

I work in the commercial litigation department, mostly dealing with breach of contract claims, as well as some claims for misrepresentation and professional negligence. I mainly  cover consumer disputes, so anything from pursuing ‘cowboy’ builders for substandard workmanship or mechanics for defective vehicle work - I’ve even worked on  a claim for a defective  wedding dress! I also cover a lot of holiday claims and work on some property disputes.

There are many different elements to my role, including instructing counsel, attending client meetings and mediations, and corresponding with the other party. It is always interesting and varied.

What do you most enjoy – and find the most challenging – about your apprenticeship?

I most enjoy meeting, working and socialising with a range of clients and colleagues. I regularly work with members of our employment and insolvency teams. I love helping a variety of clients to resolve a range of issues and disputes. It can be a challenge to deal with clients in difficult and distressing situations – many come to us in a state of upset and frustration, having tried everything to try and settle their dispute – but being able to deal with those situations is excellent experience. It can also be quite a time pressured environment with long hours, but that is counteracted by the benefits we can offer to our clients.

What is your best piece of advice for people considering applying for a legal apprenticeship?

Be focused and determined – this is not a half-hearted option or an ‘easier route’ to university, which I think is a common misconception of the apprenticeship scheme. Working in a professional environment, you have to be able to cope with the pressure and pace that comes with litigation. I think it’s also important to show your personality if you want to stand out in the recruitment process – you sometimes get caught up in what you think is expected of a lawyer, rather than focusing on the ethos of the firm and what they might be looking for. Apprenticeships are changing the legal sector and it’s a new and developing area; if you can show your personality and put your stamp on things, you will go far.

For more detail, see Irwin Mitchell's LawCareers.Net profile.