BLP Law - apprenticeship case study
Rationale behind the apprenticeship programme
BLP has long recognised that the traditional route to qualifying as a lawyer, via a university education and training contract, is a costly and time-consuming process that discourages a lot of potential candidates from pursuing a career in law.
BLP saw the apprenticeship programme as a way of attracting talent from different backgrounds, and taking a different approach to how we develop our lawyers of the future.
Where we found useful information
We spoke with various training providers to understand what was involved, and have also spoken with other employers about their apprenticeship schemes, in both legal and non-legal industries.
One of the best pieces of advice we received was from someone in the drinks industry with a long standing apprenticeship programme. They advised that patience is required but after 10 years they had people in senior management positions who had started life as apprentices and knew their business from top to bottom.
We have worked closely with our training provider to ensure that we set the programme up correctly. They have been very supportive in helping us ensure that we structure our programme correctly and that we understood what the needs of the apprentices would be.
Overcoming barriers in the initial stage of the process
Finding the right training provider is crucial. The relationship between apprentice, employer and training provider is key to ensuring that apprentices are given the support that they need.
Listening to your apprentices is key. They must balance the demands of the workplace alongside their studies, whilst also finding time to enjoy themselves outside of work. Sometimes as an employer it can be easy to forget the competing demands placed on them so it is important to find good ways to communicate with your apprentices.
Forecasting your future requirements can be a challenge. The annual process means that you need to predict your resourcing requirements for the next 18 months and it can be easy to over or under estimate these.
Use of the levy
The main advice is that you should run an apprenticeship programme if you think that the scheme is right for your business and the apprentices. Whilst the levy obviously offers a financial incentive it should not be the primary reason for running an apprenticeship programme.
Time needs to be invested in attracting the right candidates. BLP has done this through a variety of routes:
- working closely with its training provider to advertise its programme
- visiting local schools to talk about the scheme
- publicising the programme to students attending social mobility events
- hosting open days for students to find out more about the programme
We have a rigorous assessment centre approach, not dissimilar to the approach we take with trainees but tailored to reflect the different experiences of would-be apprentices.
Key steps of the process to be aware of
BLP currently has an annual intake for apprentices, based around the academic year. Planning needs to start in the autumn, with the scheme being marketed in the spring term and applications and interviews taking place in the summer term.
Once you have offered roles to candidates you need to work with your training provider to ensure that training and development plans are in place for when they join in October.
Main benefits of apprenticeships
Our apprentices continue to surprise and impress us with their ability to adapt and grow into their roles. We were initially cautious about how quickly we could expect them to develop but they have always settled in very quickly and been keen to impress.
We hope that the commitment to the programme from both apprentices, BLP and the training provider will lead to a number of our lawyers of the future having qualified in this way.
We currently have 10 legal apprentices and two solicitor apprentices.
Each year we have increased the number of new apprentices we have taken on and we see no reason why this will change in the future.
BP Law apprentice: Megan Capper
Although university was an option for me, it would have involved obtaining a large sum of debt and studying a subject which may have no relevance to my future career.
If I went to university, I would also need to work a part time job in order to fund living costs so the opportunity to be able to combine the two was ideal for me.
I did a lot of research on alternatives to university and as a result learned about numerous different types of apprenticeships. I then read about the introduction of apprenticeships within the legal industry on websites such as ‘notgoingtouni.co.uk’.
I knew that a common struggle for law students was being able to gain work experience and this proved an obstacle when applying for legal jobs as graduates. If I took the apprenticeship route, I would have at least two years of legal experience under my belt and a greater understanding of the skills required to pursue a career in law.
I’d also know whether a career in law was right for me (without being in debt of at least £38,000).
The most useful source of information for me was the open day which BLP delivered during the application process. It was the opportunity to visit the office and listen to presentations about the apprenticeship.
I was able to learn about the type of legal work BLP undertake and their values as a firm. This enabled me to gain a strong understanding of the role I was applying for prior to attending the assessment centre.
I personally didn’t experience any issues in applying to apprenticeships, however, I did have to be very proactive when searching for job vacancies.
My sixth form were very focused on the university route and did not offer much support for those who felt university was not right for them. I was told to apply for university as a backup rather than given further information on alternatives.
Since starting my apprenticeship, I have re-visited my sixth form on numerous occasions to talk about my experiences as an apprentice and to inform the students that university is not the only option. I think both sixth forms and colleges in general are starting to raise the profile of apprenticeship programmes which is great.
I mainly deal with work within the real estate department but I have also had exposure to work within the real estate finance department.
Throughout my apprenticeship, I have undertaken a wide variety of work streams which have involved drafting rent review memorandums, licences, wayleaves, contracts for sale, leases and deeds of grant and release.
I have also assisted with document reviews and dealt with a wide range of post completion work involving Land Registry and Companies House Forms. Each document which I draft is checked by a supervisor who will give feedback on any necessary amendments and key information to keep in mind for future drafting so I am constantly able to learn and reflect on the work I complete.
The most valuable skills I have developed during my apprenticeship are time management, ability to work under pressure, people skills, attention to detail and being able to present to an audience. Most of these skills I use daily and have been able to continue to develop and strengthen throughout the programme.
Examples of when I have used these skills are:
- when I have been dealing with a number of different work streams at once whilst preparing for my exams
- delivering work under strict deadlines
- presenting to clients
My advice to someone starting their apprenticeship programme would be to enjoy it and do not be afraid to ask questions! Do not sit and suffer in silence if you do not know how to approach a task or what a certain legal word means.
One of the great things about doing an apprenticeship is being able to learn on the job and from your colleagues. You will not be expected to know everything on the day you walk through the door, but you will be expected to show initiative, be willing to learn and able to develop from all the feedback that you receive.
It will be challenging and it will push you out of your comfort zone but this will enable you to build and develop on many different skills that you will use throughout your career.