What were your main motivations for pursuing a career in law? Was there a particular influencer in this decision?
I have always had an interest studying law, but I first became interested in becoming a lawyer specifically when my grandparents encountered problems with their tenancy agreement.
My grandparents rent a house in Greenwich and are entitled to a lower rate of rent due to the period of time they have lived in the property. The issue centred on that provision and, as my family researched to try to give them advise on what rights they had and if their tenant agency was acting beyond their contractual restrictions, I realised that being a solicitor was the way for me.
How did you find out about the apprenticeship route?
A friend of mine works at a City bank doing a similar scheme in computer science. I talked to him about his job and the Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship route appealed to me as being a far better course for me than studying a degree at university and following the traditional route into law.
I did some research and found that Charles Russell Speechlys LLP’s scheme was the one best suited to my personality, ambition, and ideal work environment. I applied, got through to the assessment day, and got a call two days later offering me the job.
What does your typical day consist of whilst working at the firm?
My days are varied. I attend meetings or calls with clients or other legal professionals, draft documents, prepare documents for court, attend court, and anything in-between. I perform a role equal to the other trainees in the team – all of whom have law degrees already - and receive training in legal skills and specific industry knowledge alongside them.
On an average day, I may spend an hour doing a professional development task or attending training, about three or four hours working on matters, and an hour doing study work. I then do some studying in the evening.
Is there a specific area of law that you have become particularly interested in? Why?
I currently work in the commercial litigation team for Charles Russell Speechlys. Commercial litigation is a very broad practice area, covering everything from liable claims against the media by celebrity clients, all the way down to disputes about the interpretation of contractual clauses. I have been working with a huge variety of clients across multiple industries helping to resolve their disputes.
How do you find the overall work to life balance of the apprenticeship?
As with any major decision there are pros and cons. It can be hard to find that work/life balance, especially when you have had a busy day of work and have not had a good opportunity to get as much university work done as you would like to.
What I have found really helpful has been the 20% on-the-job time you receive to just do university work. I take mine on a Monday or Wednesday, depending on how my week is going. These days let me to get through huge amounts of work and really make my job manageable. Everyone is so understanding, and I spend these days undisturbed by client matters.
A lot of people I have met have been concerned with losing out on the social element associated with university. I would say to anyone who sees that as a reason not to follow this route into the profession that you can still maintain a social life, and will be involved in social occasions with your colleagues, who will become your friends.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in the apprenticeship?
My transition into the profession has been quite smooth, but my biggest challenge has been overcoming personal fears. I was nervous about fitting in, about finding common things to talk about with my colleagues and about not being competent to do my job. These fears were alleviated on the first day, when my team took me out for lunch and spent an hour getting to know me.
Since then, I have found common ground with which to start conversation with everyone. I am now one of the team, and I feel welcome and valued for the work I do.
7. What advice would you have for someone looking to go down the apprenticeship route?
The best advice I could give someone who wants to take the apprenticeship route is to make sure they find an employer who they will enjoy working for.
My firm suits me well, it is friendly, hospitable, modern, and does the kind of work I am interested in. Many councils have apprentices in their in-house legal team, as do a lot of other companies. Look around before you apply and apply for all the ones that interest you.
The job you will be doing will require you to remain aware of the wider world. The better you understand what is going on with the economy, politics, and wider society the better you can support your team and clients, and employers know this.
They will look for contemporary knowledge in interviews and will expect you to be able to engage in conversation with them about it. Reading the news is the easiest and best way to set yourself apart from other candidates.
Harry Bulbrook is an apprentice at Charles Russell Speechlys.