Rationale behind the apprenticeship programme
The firm has dabbled with employing apprentices for a number of years, but more recently we have wanted this to be a more structured and well-managed programme across the firm, ensuring consistency and high standards across all disciplines, which benefits both the apprentice and the business.
In terms of the one individual currently doing the solicitor apprenticeship, the rationale behind that was that we wanted to develop and retain an existing employee within the business and provide him with an opportunity, through the alternative route to entry, to become a solicitor.
Until this trailblazer programme came along, he would’ve found this very difficult because he didn’t want to go to university and follow the traditional route.
A key measure of success is the apprentices completing their apprenticeships with a good idea of how they want to further their career and with some valuable skills and experience on their CV which will help them achieve their goals.
We would hope to retain them at the end of the apprenticeship, but if this isn't the case, for whatever, reason, we hope they leave feeling they had a great start to their careers and are grateful for the opportunity they have received.
Where we found useful information
We used a variety of sources, which included speaking to HR counter-parts in other firms, who were further ahead than us in the development of an apprenticeship programme.
We went to a few seminars on the subject prior to the levy coming into play, which were helpful. Sue Lenkowski Ltd was particularly impressive and informative as a speaker at one of these events.
Preparatory work we had to undertake
We have partnered with Damar Training for the majority of our apprenticeships, other than the solicitor apprenticeship, which is through BPP as they do the trailblazer programme.
In terms of providers, I met with a few different ones and went with the provider who seemed a good culture fit for us and were professional in all their dealings with us and delivered high quality candidates from the outset.
The support at recruitment stage is invaluable and ensures that we are receiving high calibre applicants. The quality of teaching is also imperative and that the apprentices feel well-supported by the provider as well as the employer.
Overcoming barriers in the initial stage of the process
There have been no real barriers, more an education process to go through to make sure the business is aware of our obligations to the apprentices in terms of the time required for learning off-the job. This has to be factored into any fee-earning targets and resource planning and managed accordingly.
An apprenticeship programme that is well-managed takes time and effort.
The apprentices we have recruited have invariably been young school leavers, who often need additional support making the transition into work, but also need mentoring and guidance on a day-to-day basis to get the most out of their learning opportunity. This requires effort and commitment from the team leaders/managers concerned.
Thankfully, we have excellent managers within Clarion who have been willing to put this effort in, but this is a note to confirm that apprentices are not an easy option for a firm to take on.
The recruitment of our apprentices has been largely done though our apprenticeship provider, who advertises and sifts candidates for our vacancies.
We have started to provide potential candidates the opportunity for an on the job interview, where they spend some time (usually a day) in the team before joining to ensure both parties involved gain a greater understanding of each other. This has proved a successful process.
We are only in the very early stages (first couple of months) of embarking on the solicitor apprenticeship, so it is too early to comment on any challenges further down the line just yet, but so far the support from BPP has been of a high standard.
Use of the levy
Initially, it was just about getting our heads around the fundamentals of what was involved and understanding how to set the digital account up, how it was paid and more recently, how does it work when you are utilising in excess of your levy. It isn’t always straightforward to find this sort of detail out.
Working closely with your finance team on the levy has been useful too as they come to it with a different perspective and can ensure that you are utilising and communicating all the commercial benefits of an apprenticeship programme.
Benefits of taking on apprentices
There have been a wide variety of benefits to having apprentices within Clarion. They have had a particularly positive impact on our Costs and Litigation Funding team, where the majority of our apprentices are based as the apprentices have become the bedrock of the team, supporting the more senior fee earners.
Having apprentices has meant we have the resources to provide clients with additional information regularly which we didn’t used to be able to do, purely because we didn’t have the time, meaning that the clients are getting a better service because of this investment. The apprentices work towards monthly targets meaning that they contribute financially too.
Apprenticeships are a win:win – for us, they make great commercial sense as well as providing a great source of new talent into the business and they get an excellent start to their legal careers, which we hope to nurture and retain as they develop in the future.
An added bonus and side-effect to the apprenticeship programme within Clarion has been the feel good factor about supporting young people develop their careers.
We currently have seven apprentices doing a mix of solicitor, business administration and paralegal apprenticeships across three different teams within the firm.
We have every intention of developing our apprenticeship programme in the future, both in terms of actual numbers, but also looking to introduce more apprentices into other teams. It would also be our ultimate aim that our current cohort of apprentices gain permanent employment with us once their official apprenticeship comes to an end.
We believe that the combination of high quality training and on-the job experience and support will make them invaluable to us and we won't want to lose them once this period of studying comes to an end.
BP Law apprentice: Daniel Shaw
I wanted to pursue a career that was not static and would be intellectually stimulating whilst still enabling me to help others. Law is forever changing and will continue to do so, as long as society changes. A career in Law always seemed like an obvious choice for me.
I was shown the course by a colleague whilst looking at alternatives to university. This prompted me into doing further research using course provider and SRA websites.
The trailblazer apprenticeship was a great opportunity to obtain a degree whilst still receiving the required experience and skills to be a solicitor. Another reason I decided to get involved in the route was the ability to remain in the firm I am working in. I had built good working relationships within the firm and enjoyed the work and environment.
Have you experienced any obstacles when applying?
I did not fully meet the entry requirements, this was discussed upon application to the course. I managed to meet the requirements with a series of tests to ensure I would be suitable for the course and the course for me.
What advice would you give to someone starting their apprenticeship programme?
Plan your time well. Create a plan for study and work activities (when possible) and ensure enough time is allowed to complete required tasks.