Charles Russell Speechlys - apprenticeship case study

What was the rationale behind starting an apprenticeship programme at your firm?

Diversity has been on the firm’s agenda for several years, and when the apprenticeship levy came into effect in 2017 we saw this as a great opportunity to offer individuals an alternative route into the legal profession, and a way for us to find talented future lawyers.

What sources of information did you use when looking for advice / help?

The pages on the apprenticeship levy and how the funding works were extremely useful to understand exactly how the levy works and what sort of training you can spend the levy funds on.

Our training provider is CILEx and City, University of London, who have joined together to offer the level 7 Solicitor Apprenticeship. They have been extremely helpful in answering my many questions and are generally always on hand to offer advice. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

What sort of preparatory work did the firm have to undertake to be able to start the apprenticeship programme?

We had to do a lot of research to understand what an apprenticeship programme would look like in our firm. It meant deciding where the apprentices would sit in the business and the points at which they would move to different areas.

I think if you already run a successful training contract programme for graduates then it is easier to introduce the apprenticeship programme, as you already have the support structure in place.

It is just a case of educating those people who will be working closely with the apprentices about the differences there may be in terms of the level of experience compared to trainees, but our training provider ran some training on this for our staff, which was really useful.

Have you experienced any barriers in the initial stages of the process?

No, I don’t think we have. Everything seems to have gone smoothly and the support and feedback internally on the programme has been overwhelmingly positive so far.

Can you offer any insights into the use of the levy and recruitment?

It is not as confusing as it initially seems. The guidance online is helpful and if you get stuck there is an apprenticeship employer helpline, which I found useful.

Our training provider really helped guide us through our first year of recruitment, providing us with templates for the job description as a guide and promoting our opportunity on a number of job boards.

We asked candidates to submit a CV and cover letter, which came directly to us. Having no idea what to expect from our first year, we were pleasantly surprised at the number and quality of the applications.

What are the keys steps of the process to be aware of?

You need to source your training provider first, as they will help you advertise the apprenticeship vacancies. They can also provide guidance on the various stages, such as when to hold the interviews and when offers should be made by.

You should also think about when students may be available for interviews. We decided to run these in the Easter holidays as it is difficult for them to take the time out to attend during term time.

What have been the main benefits of taking on apprentices? What are your future plans?

I think it shows us as quite a forward-thinking firm, and a lot of our clients have been impressed that we offer a programme like this.

Our apprentices also provide effective additional support to our teams. They have been getting actively involved in matters and it has been great to see them being relied on more and more by the partners and associates they work with.

We currently have two solicitor apprentices and we are looking to recruit two more each year going forward. It is a six-year programme, so we will have 12 apprentices in the firm in total.

Sydney Lee - solicitor apprentice

Sydney LeeMy initial interest in the law derived from its everyday social relevance, as it is the main influence on human and business behaviour.

I began researching the law in order to develop my understanding. The BBC radio 4 ‘Law in Action’ podcasts were probably my main resource for this, from which I developed an appreciation and enthusiasm for the constant changing and updating of the law, and the way that individual cases can have such an impact on our legal system.

I chose the solicitor route in particular because it offers endless opportunities to develop my knowledge of the law in specialised areas, which I believe would develop my abilities to my full potential.

I was made aware of this option whilst on work experience at Kennedys. I recognised that the apprenticeship route fits in well with my skills and qualities. I enjoy working under pressure, and I like to keep busy.

On top of this, I felt that it would be invaluable as a law student to gain first-hand experience within the different sectors of law.

There are a variety of websites that have details of all of the level 7 solicitor apprenticeships that are available. This was how I decided which firm I was going to apply to.

When searching for more information, the Charles Russell Speechlys website was the most useful source. The requirements were posted, along with information regarding the expected skills and qualities. I also spoke with the careers adviser at my sixth form who assisted me with interview preparation, and updating my CV.

I think that the assessment day was the most difficult part of the process. I have had part time jobs in the past, but I have never experienced a formal interview.

Unlike many of the other candidates, I had not been to other interviews for different firms, so I did not know what to expect. The day consisted of a group activity, followed by a one-on-one interview, and then finally a timed essay. Overall, the experience was a lot better than I had initially expected, but it was definitely difficult.

I currently work in the real estate department. My standard day consists of various tasks, including land registry forms, SDLT returns, and 1954 Act documents. I am also given the opportunity to draft and negotiate documents such as a lease, license or a tenancy at will. I also enjoy the corporate social responsibility initiatives in the firm.

Most recently, I performed in a pantomime to raise money for charity, which was organised and performed completely by members of the firm. Following the day of work, I usually attempt to do around one-to-two hours of studying in the evening.

The university course requires 20 hours of study a week, and we are given a study day for this. This means that on top of the working week, extra time must be allocated to studying in order to ensure that you do not fall behind.

For this reason, it is essential to be motivated and determined. In terms of skills within my work, attention to detail is the most valuable skill for me. This skill is particularly developed when drafting and negotiating documents.

My main advice would be to always ask questions about the wider transaction when given a piece of work to do. It makes it more interesting and much easier to complete because you are able to picture this small task within the wider context.

Do not be afraid to ask questions - everyone at the firm is aware that you are only just starting out in the legal industry, with potentially no prior experience. It is important to utilize the people around you in order to learn as much as you can from them. It is also essential to stay on top of the studying aspect.

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