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Law Apprenticeships Guide

Meet the Apprentice

updated on 18 August 2022

Esther Farley is a third-year solicitor apprentice at Mayer Brown International LLP

Millie Aish is a paralegal apprentice at RPC

Esther Farley is a third-year solicitor apprentice at Mayer Brown International LLPShe’s currently in the litigation construction department.

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

By the time I finished sixth form, I was unsure if I wanted to continue with full-time education and I didn’t like the idea of accumulating student debt at university. So I took a year out to consider my options and got a job in a local estate agent, where I really enjoyed working in an office and earning a wage. I then applied to various legal apprenticeships around the country and was eventually offered my place with Mayer Brown.

What is a typical day at work like?

When I’m in the office, I arrive at work at around 9:15am and start working on my tasks for the day. This can be anything from drafting documents, legal research, reviewing legislation, to client correspondence and meetings, or observing hearings or mediations. I will often meet with trainee solicitors at lunch or go for a walk before returning for the afternoon.

The kind of work I do varies widely depending on the department I’m sitting in and the matters they’re working on at the time. As apprentices move around the firm every six months, it’s very interesting to see so many different practice areas and experience new fields of law. There are also lots of opportunities to get involved with pro bono work, which allows me to take on more responsibility than my normal client work, and other diversity and inclusion initiatives within the firm.

How have you found juggling work with your study days?

As apprentices, we have one day a week to study and attend university. This day typically involves preparation work, followed by an online lecture, and then some consolidation work to solidify the material we’ve covered. We also have termly coursework to demonstrate the work we do each day and what we’re learning at the firm. The lead up to exams or coursework deadlines can be challenging as we might have to use more of our own time to revise and prepare. Generally, though, it’s manageable to balance work with study and Mayer Brown put apprentices in business services departments for their first year to give them time to find this balance.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of being an apprentice?

For me, the most enjoyable part of my apprenticeship is learning practically how to be a lawyer from some of the best individuals in their fields. When my peers left university with their law degrees, they often didn’t have much legal work experience and struggled to get jobs in law as a result. I, on the other hand, work full time in a global law firm with direct client contact, increasing responsibilities and the opportunity to observe colleagues daily who are professional role models.

What advice would you give to anyone considering an apprenticeship?

My advice would be to spend some time researching firms that offer apprenticeships and visiting them to find offices where you feel the working environment and culture will allow you to be successful. There are many firms with different cultures, values and sizes, but they won’t all suit everybody, so it’s invaluable that you do your research. Similarly, work experience is useful to discover which kinds of legal work you find interesting and areas that you might not have thought about getting involved in, as well as building your CV and transferable skills ahead of applying for apprenticeships.

Find out more about Mayer Brown’s articled route to qualification programme.

Paralegal apprentice Millie shares insights into her day-to-day work at RPC and offers advice to those in the throes of choosing their next steps.  

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

I didn’t realise apprenticeships existed in the legal sector until I attended my A-level options evening. It was there that I spoke to an ex-student who had completed an apprenticeship.

After lots of work experience in several sectors, I found that practical hands-on learning suited me – a style of learning that the apprenticeship route offers. It also provides a rounded and beneficial insight into the sector because you’re embedded in the industry and are at the forefront of cases, unlike the university route, which is quite theoretical. Candidates develop soft skills and learn from top role models who will likely become part of their professional network.

What is a typical day at work like?

There’s no such thing as a typical day. I work in a team of paralegals and apprentices who support the rest of the teams across the firm’s Bristol and London offices. We get lots of different types of work coming in – for example, one day you could be working on an employment tribunal bundle and the next day you could be dealing with a professional negligence claim.

The apprenticeship route offers so much exposure to various areas of the law, so you’re constantly learning.

How have you found juggling work with your study days?

I have a good balance between work and studying. The firm gives us one day a week to complete our studying and because of the route the firm picked for my cohort, we don’t have any exams until the end of our apprenticeship. I find that I rarely have to study outside of the study day, apart from occasionally having to finish some of the reading. The firm always encourages us to not use our work laptop and not check work emails so we can dedicate this period to studying.

The previous apprentices are also always available to discuss the studying side of the apprenticeship, which is invaluable.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of being an apprentice?

There are so many amazing aspects to being an apprentice. The variety of work is definitely one of those. Plus, our colleagues are so supportive – the partners and senior associates pay a lot of interest into this route and our careers. As a result, we’re given opportunities to develop and learn, and are supported in doing this, even if it is a task that is maybe at the top end of our ability. We are also encouraged to develop our soft skills through client events and social events. There are lots of educational talks too – you can get involved in as many as you want.

The overarching aspect that I enjoy the most is the firm’s supportive, friendly and collaborative ethos.

What advice would you give to anyone considering an apprenticeship?

The golden rule with applications is research. Find out what a law apprenticeship is, which firms offer them and make sure it’s the right route for you. After this, conduct research into your shortlisted firms and the areas of law in which they work. Look into the firm’s values and hold these in mind when completing your application – show how your values are in line with the firm’s. You’ve got to ascertain whether the firm is the right fit for you too and conducting this research will help.

Candidates should also illustrate the skills that the firm is looking for in its future apprentices. Use the job description and provide evidence of the skills you possess, whether that’s via your involvement in sports teams or part-time work. And, finally, remember to get someone to read your application before you send it.