Jones Day – apprenticeship case study

Becky – solicitor apprentice, Jones Day

What motivated you to pursue a career in law?

Throughout my teenage years, I always had an interest in pursuing a career in law. I believe this interest stems from my dad who was in the police, which gave me the opportunity to see the law in action. After speaking with in-house solicitors on work experience, I liked the idea of a career that was team-work driven and would enable me to participate in the key decisions made by leading global companies.

How did you get involved in the apprenticeship route? Where did you find out about this option?

Despite having a place at university, I found out about different apprenticeships through friends at sixth form. I had presumed that apprenticeships would not be available for law but I decided to research further.

I came across the website 'Not Going to Uni' and noticed that it was the first year (2016) that the apprenticeship route had opened for a legal career. The process was very easy and only required me to submit my CV and cover letter online.

What was the most useful source of information?

For me, as one of the first “trailblazers” on the scheme, there were no previous case studies on the solicitor apprenticeship. Regardless, this was an exciting opportunity for myself, my firm and the law school at the forefront of this new programme.

Have you experienced any obstacles / difficulties when applying?

The biggest challenge I faced when applying was whether to choose the apprenticeship over university, being one of the first apprentices on the scheme. Despite having a place at a good university, I liked the idea of having the opportunity to experience the practical aspects of the job alongside my studies.

At the time it was all very unknown and it was a big decision to weigh up university versus studying and working at the same time. I’m glad I chose the apprenticeship as I find it very manageable. I would not change my decision and I feel I made the right choice for me.

What does your standard day consist of?

One of the great things about Jones Day is that the apprenticeship mirrors the format of the graduate training contract in the sense of it being a ‘non-rotational’ system. I am not allocated to a specific department or practice area – but have the flexibility to work for any team or any lawyers. I have had the opportunity to gain great exposure to large-scale transactions and high value claims with a variety of departments including Global Disputes, Corporate, Real Estate and Banking.

This has meant that my days and weeks can really differ from one to the next. One day I could be investigating and analysing documents for disclosure to piece together evidence, researching key developments in case law and drafting court forms and compiling extensive chronologies for a Disputes matter; the next I could be drafting key documents required to affect an acquisition, assisting in the due diligence process, and handling smaller Real Estate asset management matters including drafting rent review memorandums, leases and licences. I have also had the opportunity to visit court and participate in client calls and meetings.

In terms of the skills you have developed, which ones do you find most valuable?

My confidence over my time at the Firm has improved enormously and has therefore developed my communication skills with both solicitors and clients. I feel more able to put my opinion and knowledge across in a clear manner, both orally and in writing. I have also learned how to manage my time effectively, in order to gain exposure to a range of different departments and solicitors of all levels, whilst also ensuring work is prioritised in order to meet deadlines.

What advice would you give to someone starting their apprenticeship programme?

Even though at time it can be daunting, I would advise anyone starting their apprenticeship programme to always be open to new opportunities. Try to get involved in a range of work and exposure to many solicitors – as your knowledge of the cases and transactions grows, so will your level of responsibility and opportunity to develop.

I would also advise to be diligent with your studies and manage your time effectively. It is particularly important when working alongside studies not to get behind, with a busy work schedule it can easily happen.

Rose Taylor – manager, trainee recruitment & development, Jones Day

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

Our main driver was from a social mobility perspective. The introduction of a legal apprenticeship was a great leap in broadening the opportunity for a career in law to people from a variety of backgrounds. Particularly those who couldn’t afford or didn’t want the burden of university debt. Our Firm is committed to long-term retention, so the opportunity to recruit from a very junior level, from a variety of backgrounds, and develop lawyers with a deep understanding of the Firm and our clients is undoubtedly a benefit for us too.

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

We relied heavily on our law school partner. We launched the programme in 2016 (in a very short time frame!) so were real trailblazers for this particular apprenticeship.

What sort of preparatory work did the firm have to undertake to be able to start the apprenticeship programme? Have you used services of an external organisation?

A lot of research, a lot of paperwork and a lot of conversations with our law school provider. They were fantastic at guiding us through what is a fairly complicated and document-heavy process. We also relied on them to help with our application process.

What approach did you take to recruitment?

We wanted to be sure that the candidates we shortlisted had a good understanding of what the programme could offer them and give them the chance to try the kind of work we do here, to be sure it was right for them. So our recruitment and assessment process operated like a mini-vacation scheme. This allowed us to see the candidates at work, interacting around the office with our lawyers – as well as offering valuable work experience to the whole group. Lawyers acted as mentors and we had open and honest conversations about the options available to candidates – many had university offers and weren’t sure which route best-suited them. We tested their writing, organisation and communication skills and were really looking for potential rather than any legal knowledge.

What have been the main benefits of taking on apprentices? What would you say to those who are unsure about taking on such new staff?

The apprentices are now an essential resource to the Firm. From the most junior level in the early days to becoming integral members of case or deal teams. Because they have the flexibility to work across different practice areas (rather than being assigned to one team) they learn from a variety of people and see how the work and departments interact, which gives them well-rounded training. Their depth of knowledge of the Firm and our clients is also valuable as something which is built up slowly over a long period of time. It also means that when a particular team or practice area is busy there is always support on-hand. The best thing has been seeing how our apprentices have developed and those who are now in their fourth year (out of seven years) are practically operating at graduate-trainee level.

How many apprentices have you got currently and will you continue expanding the programme in the future?

We have two Solicitor Apprentices now in their fourth year of the programme (after completing the nitial two-year Paralegal programme) and three Paralegal Apprentices in their second year – who we hope will progress onto the Solicitor level next year. We plan to recruit more at the Paralegal level in 2021 and are looking forward to our first cohort qualifying as solicitors in 2023.

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