My role as a legal apprentice
I am currently in my final year of the 2 year Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services with Bond Dickinson. This is very exciting and marks the end of an amazing adventure but also the start of my new career as a paralegal.
Over the past year as a Bond Dickinson apprentice, I have worked in many different areas of the law and across many different teams. At the moment I am supporting the dispute resolution team which involves contacting debtors on behalf of our clients, the debts vary in amount and some cases can be more complex than others. Before that, I was part of the Real Estate department for 10 months and that involved conducting searches on properties and also making applications to the Land Registry or Companies House.
All in all my role is very varied and I have had the chance to work across many disciplines and develop new skills such as completing legal documents and adopting the correct etiquette with the court and clients. Aside from the legal experience I am getting, my apprenticeship has also enabled me to strengthen my soft skills including interaction with colleagues and clients, preparation for meetings, public speaking and other basic skills needed in any work environment.
How I got here
After having completed my GCSEs I went onto study A-levels in Law, History and Psychology. My A-level choices were heavily influenced by my desire to pursue a career in the legal sector. From a very young age I knew I always wanted to work in Law. This stemmed from my passion for reading books, where something about the way in which lawyers are portrayed appealed to me (despite the stereotypical view of lawyers).
Whilst completing my A-levels I worked as a part-time waitress in a hotel and also volunteered for the Citizens Advice Bureau. In my final year at school, I also completed a work placement at a private law practice to experience first-hand how solicitors work and have a better understanding of what being a lawyer means. This was a very informative experience and further heightened my desire to work within the legal sector.
When I passed my A-levels I realised that University was not for me, especially with the astronomical fees. Besides, I feel that learning on the job is the best way to acquire relevant and hands-on experience. When I finished college I started researching ways in which I could start a legal career without going to University and I then found the legal apprenticeship programme offered by Bond Dickinson.
I did my research into the firm and from the outset felt that the business's values and ethos would be a good fit for me. I decided to submit an application and shortly after I was invited along to a 3 day work placement and informal interview at the firm. During the placement I was able to experience working in an office and completed mock tasks in their Real Estate; Dispute Resolution; and Flex Teams.
The apprenticeship appealed to me because I have always enjoyed working and learning. I had learnt to balance my work and academics whilst at college and I was not prepared to give either of them up. Bond Dickinson was attractive because it offered excellent opportunities for career progression to qualify as a chartered legal executive and the apprenticeship programme seemed well structured and clear to understand.
A typical week
Having recently returned to work after the festive period, my morning mostly consisted of having to go through all the e-mails I received over the holidays. The day started off quite slow as everyone was catching up on emails following the Christmas break. This was short lived though as I received my first task for the day and was asked to draft two statutory demands for our clients. Statutory demands are used to provoke debtors to respond to our correspondence and we use them with the intention of making the debtor bankrupt if no response is received from them. Once these were approved by a solicitor, I liaised with the Administration Team who sent the demands out. After this, my day mostly consisted of writing advice e-mails to our clients and making calls to debtors.
As the start of the week flew by, I was later presented with the opportunity to take on additional work. As an apprentice I do not have my own workload and therefore my work comes from my colleagues who delegate some of their tasks to me. My team leader, and mentor, asked me to assist her with a number of her cases. I was given approximately 30 files to assist with and I was thrilled to be given such a responsibility, as it showed that my colleagues see me as a competent and reliable member of the team. Looking after the cases was an excellent way for me to see what it is like to have my own work load as I will be expected to run my own files once I am a fully-fledged paralegal.
To progress the files, I had to get a report from the Administration Team of all the matters that I had to work on. I then had to go through each file and see what had been completed and the work that needed to be done in order for me to progress the matters. The tasks were varied and all ranging from calls to debtors through to drafting advice e-mails to our clients. I was able to discuss a few of the files with my colleagues to get suggestions on the best way to progress some of the matters.
Following the discussions, I was able to start working on the files and the rest of the week consisted of making further calls to debtors and our clients and engaging in e-mail exchanges with the view of having various matters settled.
Although I was busy, I was aware that help was on hand if I needed support in managing my work, especially as I was preparing for my upcoming Civil Litigation exam as part of my apprenticeship. I was given an extra study day to allow myself and fellow apprentices to adequately prepare for the exam. Usually we have one study day a week which is solely dedicated to completing webinars and study exercises which really helps with balancing the work and academic aspects of the apprenticeship.
My manager, who is also my mentor and has been a paralegal in the business for some time, is brilliant. We really get on and we work well together. She is always available when I need advice and support and over the past year she has given me invaluable knowledge into the legal profession. She also plays an active role in supporting my academic and professional development.
What I love about what I do
I have learnt a lot from my apprenticeship at Bond Dickinson and was thrilled when the firm won Large Newcomer Employer of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards this January. The programme is very well structured and a lot of thought and consideration has gone into it to make sure that apprentices are at ease with what is required from the start.
I have gained so much experience that has assisted me to understand what it means to be a lawyer. The apprenticeship has been an excellent way to begin my career in law without going through the traditional routes. Before my apprenticeship I was under the impression that I had to know everything and that I may not be given the same responsibilities as a paralegal. I have realised whilst on the job that this is not the case and I have been able to build practical knowledge from the work I have been involved with.
My experiences within my apprenticeship have surpassed my expectations as I am treated and given the same work as other members of the team. Being an apprentice at Bond Dickinson has enhanced my desire to pursue a career within the legal sector and has been an excellent opportunity to start my legal journey.