Interview with Natassia Sinclair, Legal Apprentice at Weightmans

Natassia Sinclair is a Legal Apprentice at Weightmans. With a strong set of GCSEs and A-levels, Nattasia is currently working towards a Diploma in Personal Injury and harbours ambitions of undertaking the CILEx route to qualification and becoming a partner of the firm…

  • Last updated Feb 10, 2018 4:19:21 PM
  • By Billy Sexton, Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk
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Image courtesy of Flikr user LaserGuided, 'Macro Music ??'

Why did you particularly decide to undertake a legal apprenticeship? And why did you choose this over going to university to study law?

I want to be a successful lawyer and I believe that an apprenticeship offers me the best route into the profession. I enjoyed the academic framework to my law A-level studies, but I particularly enjoyed the application of law to factual scenarios as this gave me a taste of what practicing law will be like. Whilst I had offers to study law at university, I was aware of the difficulty of obtaining a training contract at the end of four years of study, which would also lead to considerable debt. I knew that a legal apprenticeship would be a fantastic opportunity to start my career at a top level firm, learning their business, their ethos and their approach to client care right from the start.

Why did you choose to work with your particular company? What role do you currently do?

I chose Weightmans because I knew that I will be able to learn the skills needed to be a successful lawyer and I wanted to take on increasing responsibility as I develop.  I wanted to dedicate myself to a prestigious legal firm such as Weightmans in the hope of a future with them. I knew I could improve my knowledge and skills so that I can give credible and reliable advice to clients. I wanted to make money for my employer and make a contribution to a successful and profitable business and I wanted to be a part of a national firm that has a broad variety of work so that I can experience different aspects of the job and discover where I can best make a contribution.

I currently work in the dedicated disease unit as a file handler. I have my own case load under the supervision of my supervisor. I work in the pre-litigation team carrying each case from start to end, whether it is until the case settles through to just before the litigation process begins.

Has anything surprised you about working in a legal environment?

Before I started at Weightmans, I expected the firm and employees to be serious and stern. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Everyone I have come into contact with has been really friendly, welcoming, approachable and supportive. I never hesitate to ask for help and feel comfortable talking to anyone. I was surprised at people’s approach to my apprenticeship, and over a year later people are still asking me how I’m getting on with my course and work load.

What skills that you learnt whilst at school have translated to your Apprenticeship? 

I established that I have very good academic skills in terms of my GCSE and AS results. I worked very hard to achieve top grades at A2 and believed that I had the ability and determination to succeed as a Higher Apprentice. A-level law enabled me to understand the basic structure of the English legal system and the basic principles of tort and criminal law.  I understand how to apply rules to factual scenarios which has given me a reasonable understanding of the work of a claims handler in a legal firm.

Are you working towards achieving any professional qualifications as part of your Apprenticeship? If so, which, and how are your company supporting you through your studies?

I am currently working towards my Level 4 Diploma in Personal Injury. Weightmans are extremely supportive in all aspects; Not only do they fund my studying, but they allow me take time out of my working day to meet up with my training assessor every month. They also allow study leave to ensure I am fully prepared for my exams.

How much responsibility do you have so far? Have you become involved in live cases with real clients from the start or is your training more theoretical?

I am currently running my own case load under supervision, I am therefore given a lot of responsibility. I prefer learning on the basis of the ‘hands on’ approach as it provides a deeper understanding of the way that Weightmans works. I am very keen to train in a firm which offers a structured training plan and the prospect of career progression and I also like the idea of a blend of learning methods and on ongoing assessment through portfolio evidence. I am a reflective learner and I feel that this practical approach helps me to gain the skills required to make a successful fee earner within the firm. Weightmans encourages the idea of mentoring and progress reviews which enables me to monitor and progress within a structured support system.

What is your favourite element of your apprenticeship? And what is the most challenging?

I really enjoy the fact that I am learning whilst I am earning. This approach enables me to transfer my knowledge gained through my training, to my everyday job and vice versa. Sometimes it can be challenging studying during the evening and weekends after a full week at work. However, with determination and motivation, it is more than achievable.

What about your application do you think made you stand out as a candidate? Did you have any previous legal experience or knowledge? 

I secured a work experience placement at a local firm providing a national service and support to the legal profession by drafting witness statements. Here, I was responsible for taking instructions from clients (legal firms) via telephone and email. I would then provide administrative support in the process of drafting statements and I was responsible for making appointments with clients and solicitors, ensuring that these appointments were kept and sending reminder letters where appropriate. Through this, I learnt the importance of deadlines in the litigation process.  My administrative role also included photocopying and collating documents, logging documents into spreadsheets and calculating the company’s income and expenditure. Litigation fascinated me and this job gave me exposure to this important part of the evidentiary process.

I also participated in the Bar Mock Trial Competition, developing basic advocacy skills and a good understanding of the mechanics of criminal litigation. During the run up to trial, I received mentoring from a local barrister who taught me the value of extensive preparation for trial.  I also developed team working skills as I needed to work with my witnesses, the court clerk and usher to ensure our team functioned efficiently. The experience of the Bar Mock trial required dedication and motivation; qualities which I brought to my role as a legal apprentice at Weightmans.

How does your company support your growth through your Apprenticeship? 

Weightmans encourage my growth in terms of my education and career prospects. I have an assessor who marks my coursework and provides me with training and assists me in progressing in my course. My supervisor also overlooks my training and monitors my work load and cases, whilst setting me targets and deadlines.

How do you hope to progress after your Apprenticeship? How will your current study and programme help you to get there?

A legal apprenticeship is an alternative route to qualification. Once I have completed my Higher Apprenticeship I intend to move onto the next level and further enhance my knowledge and understanding of the legal profession. In the long term, I intend to be a successful lawyer at Weightmans and I will work my way up through the firm by undertaking CILEx pathway to qualification. I am not yet sure which area of law I will specialise in, however, I intend to make a long-term commitment to Weightmans and one day, maybe achieve the status of a partner in the firm.

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