Rationale behind the apprenticeship programme
In 2013, we were one of the first firms to recruit legal apprentices. At the time, it was a natural extension for us in terms of looking at how we could deliver legal work differently.
In our transaction services team, we had seen non-law graduates perform as well as LPC students in paralegal roles and we saw no reason why an apprentice couldn't perform as well as an LPC student.
Our apprentices have turned in to some of our strongest performers. When the solicitor apprenticeship scheme was launched, we felt this was a great opportunity to allow an individual to train with us for six years.
Where we found useful information
We are lucky in that Gun Judge, our head of resourcing, was chair of the Legal Trailblazer group and therefore heavily involved in the design of the new apprenticeship standards.
The Trailblazer group, along with the Law Society, held a number of roadshows which were helpful in understanding more about the standards and practically how to set up a solicitor apprentice scheme.
There are usually activities to promote apprenticeships during National Apprenticeship week in March, which is a good opportunity to learn more about recruiting apprentices.
After getting internal sign-off to launch the scheme, we had a tender process to select a provider, and we researched this using the government’s list of registered training providers.
We considered what we wanted out of our training provider - for example, training centres near our offices - and built this into a list of requirements. This helped us form a clear idea of what we were looking for – the solicitor apprentice scheme is five to six years long so it's important to get this right.
Use of levy
Whilst HR are familiar with the levy, it's important to remember other key stakeholders may not be. We have found it helpful to work closely with finance and the senior management team to get buy-in on the advantages of using the levy money to fund apprentice training, rather than it being seen as just a cost to the business.
We worked closely with our training provider, BPP, taking advantage of their expertise and resources whilst still maintaining our brand in the recruitment process. We focused advertising on key recruitment sites for young people. BPP also supported us with screening of CVs and telephone interviews.
We attended career fairs organised by schools or regional apprentice networks as part of National Apprenticeship Week.
We also held an assessment workshop at which BPP talked to students about the study element of the apprenticeship.
Selecting apprentices is different from trainee recruitment, as candidates will have less understanding of law and what your firm does. It's therefore important to develop a recruitment process which focuses on potential and attitude rather than solely on academic achievements or previous legal work experience.
Main benefits of apprenticeships
There are many benefits of recruiting apprentices, from the energy and fresh ideas they bring, to their commitment to the firm and their hard work.
We've also had positive feedback from clients who recognise the commitment we are making to young people entering the profession.
We have successfully recruited six solicitor apprentices to start in September 2017. This is in addition to the 22 legal services apprentices we've recruited since 2013 and the six apprentices we have within our support functions.
We remain committed to apprenticeships and will look at how we can expand our programme.
Addleshaw Goddard apprentice Annie Armstrong
Annie Amstrong has completed the Level 3 apprenticeship in legal services and will start the solicitor apprenticeship in September 2017.
‘I used to attend my local court to watch trials’
I studied law at college and found it really interesting. I have always been interested in law and during college I used to attend my local court to watch trials.
I was aware that what we studied at college would be very different from a career at a commercial law firm - something I knew little about at the time. The first glimpse I got of a commercial law firm was attending interviews for apprenticeships. From what I saw, I knew that I would enjoy a career in law.
While I was at college I was very much encouraged to go down the university route and I did apply to study law and got accepted at various universities.
However, my law teacher mentioned an apprenticeship programme at a law firm in Manchester. I hadn't heard of this route before and I was really interested so I had a look at what was on offer. The idea of learning on the job really appealed to me, especially as I would be earning a degree at the same time.
I applied for an apprenticeship and was successful - however, as it was quite late in the year I decided to wait a year to see what apprenticeships were offered the following year. I continued to search for apprenticeships and came across the apprenticeship at Addleshaw Goddard (AG), which I applied for and here I am today.
‘The best source of information’
The government's national apprenticeship website, which breaks down all the apprenticeships on offer into levels, was a very useful source of information during the application process. I then looked at the CILEx website to find out what I would actually be studying.
However, the best source of information I found was visiting AG on their three-day trial. I met previous apprentices who could tell me what the apprenticeship was actually like and what they would be doing next. I also got to find out what sort of work I would be completing.
When applying for the solicitor apprenticeship I found the BPP website really useful as it gave a breakdown of what the apprenticeship consisted of and what units we would be studying and how much time during the week we would have to complete our work. The talk before the interview delivered by BPP at AG was a good opportunity to ask questions and clear up anything I was unsure about.
Because my college was very much focused on university applicants, I found that far too much time was spent on UCAS applications. If apprenticeships were advertised better by colleges, I would have seriously considered one earlier and wouldn’t have had to take a year out of college before starting.
‘Working full time on a project’
I am currently in the real estate sub-team and I support the fee earners on the transactions they are working on. This can be drafting Land Registry applications, SDLT forms, lease reviews and ordering documents from the Land Registry.
I am also working full time on a project which involves the transfer of a large number of sites. This means completing Land Registry applications, drafting licences to assign and contacting landlords to request permission to assign.
I also spent six months in the finance and projects (F&P) team. Although I have now permanently joined the real estate team I still carry out checking of other paralegal's work in the F&P team.
On a usual day I arrive at work at about 8.30am - 8.45am, check my emails and see if any are urgent and need to be prioritised. I will then make a to-do list and see how much time I am likely to have spare that day.
Depending on the length of my list, I will look at the real estate inbox to see what jobs I can pick up. I am also responsible for looking after the TST's social media account, so I am always on the look-out for things we can share on Twitter or LinkedIn.
‘Ask as many questions as you can’
The apprenticeship has helped me be more confident and improve my communication skills. The nature of the job means there are often times when you are faced with tight deadlines and this has definitely improved my ability to work under pressure.
My advice to someone starting their apprenticeship programme would be to ask as many questions as you can - the more you ask the more you will learn.
Try to manage your time well and stick to the deadlines given for coursework. If you keep to these deadlines it becomes a lot easier to juggle a full-time job and studying.
Put yourself forward for as much as you can.