What was the rationale behind starting an apprenticeship programme at your firm?
Dentons’ involvement in apprenticeships dates back to 2014. From the outset, there was strong support for apprenticeships and we joined the government Trailblazer in Law group, which worked on and signed off the legal apprenticeship standards.
We knew from the very beginning that we wanted to target school leavers and create a solicitor apprenticeship programme.
We wanted to create an opportunity to widen the talent pool and offer candidates an alternative route into the profession, which in turn has a positive impact on social mobility. Those who cannot afford to go university nowadays can still become solicitors, if they choose the apprenticeship route.
What sources of information did you use when looking for advice / help?
Being part of the Trailblazer group meant that we knew how the process worked and what training providers were available. We chose BPP as our provider and they supported us at every step of the way as we set up our new programme.
What approach did you take to recruitment?
In order to ensure that the assessment process was aligned with that of our trainee recruitment, we decided to conduct the recruitment in-house, rather than use the recruitment service offered by BPP.
We sent brochures to a number of schools in the summer, took part in various events where school leavers were in attendance, delivered presentations at school assemblies and met with careers advisers.
We launched our application process in October 2016 and the following intensive attraction campaign attracted 252 applicants.
Between November 2016 and January 2017, successful applicants were invited to take a critical thinking test, followed by a self-interview video. 14 students were invited for a two-day assessment at our offices in February 2017 with members of the HR team and partners. The calibre of the 14 students was high and three apprentices started the programme in October 2017.
What are the key steps to think about?
- Think about the audience and what information would be the most useful for potential candidates. Make sure that any communication is tailored and delivered in a language the candidates will understand. Deciding to be a commercial lawyer at such an early age and remaining committed to this goal requires understanding what the process will entail and what the firm offers. It is essential to be clear about these points at the beginning and throughout.
- It is really important to engage with schools and career advisers and give them as much information as possible about the apprenticeship programme. Many schools are not aware of the fantastic apprenticeship programmes now available for school leavers and the alternative opportunities available.
- Organising an open day before the assessment day gave our candidates an opportunity to see whether the law firm was really an environment they could see themselves working in and ask honest questions to our recruitment team and our lawyers.
How many apprentices have you got currently and will you continue expanding the programme in the future?
Three solicitor apprentices started in October 2017 and we are currently recruiting for our next cohort to join in October 2018.
Jake Reilly - solicitor apprentice
When leaving my sixth form there were only two factors that affected my decision of what I was going to do next: I wanted to be academically engaged and have a good impact on my community.
I needed to be learning new concepts on a continual basis, whilst being in a position to help the people who need it most. When I came across the apprenticeship with Dentons, and saw the good work they do on a global scale, I had found a pathway that ticked both boxes.
I had made a decision long before I reached sixth form that university was not a personal goal. The debt burden would have been too much and I refused to push it onto my family.
Yet I still wanted to be learning and developing my skills. It seemed clear that an apprenticeship was the best way forward.
During the last year of sixth form I was applying to several apprenticeships when I came across the one with Dentons. I had never heard of the new 'trailblazer solicitor apprenticeship ' scheme so I was surprised. It looked very interesting and I had thought about going into law before so I applied.
I would not have found my apprenticeship if it wasn't for the government website. It has a simple design that makes it very easy to find out about opportunities. There were very few apprenticeships around where I live so I looked for those available in London and searched for degree level apprenticeships.
Otherwise I think it is best to look at the company's own website. Dentons had a clear plan of what they wanted out of the apprenticeship scheme. All the information on it was available on their website and it was from there I found where I would be studying; what modules there were; how many spaces were open, etc.
I found the application to be quite straightforward. Whilst certain aspects of the process where very new to me (like a video interview), there was plenty of information available to help.
I had a very clear idea as to what each stage was going to be like and what I could expect from the tests or tasks I had to perform. The last two days of the interview, where you are invited to the office and get a tour, were very informative.
The HR team at Dentons were keen to ensure that, even if we did not get an offer for a job, the process would have been worthwhile. They helped us develop new skills and spoke about how to handle one-on-one interviews. Overall, it was a very useful experience as a part of my own personal development.
The most valuable skill I have developed so far has been resilience. A strong commitment to the learning process is necessary for your own development as a professional and as a person. The apprenticeship is a very challenging experience, but that is something that should be embraced.
The biggest advantage of legal apprenticeships is that you get to work alongside some very accomplished people.
Your colleagues will have a vast wealth of experience that can prove to be invaluable. They can help you develop your practical skills at work and offer advice on more general aspects of life. It is this experience that really sets apart an apprenticeship from straight academic study – the ability to learn through others.