“They’re just as capable, just as bright and just as ambitious.” This is how Denise Wright compares Weightmans’ legal apprentices to the firm’s trainees. “It is an alternative path to qualification.”
Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships in the legal sector allow school leavers to enter the industry without having to go to university. Qualifications in legal services and legal administration are just some of the options available to those who will also train in roles such as a legal assistant or paralegal. However, Weightmans are keen to support their apprentices in going above and beyond these roles, if they wish to. Denise explains how “three years after finishing their Higher Apprenticeship, our employees could be a Chartered Legal Executive so long as their work experience is sufficient.” Indeed, a number of people within the firm are qualified lawyers who did not attend university, but rather became Chartered Legal Executives. Many have also gone on to be a partner within the firm.
There’s certainly a culture of support and encouragement at Weightmans. “If you’re hardworking, bright and if you’ve got motivation and enthusiasm, you’ll go far and we’ll support you. It’s easy for us to get people qualified, it’s easy for us to get them trained. The difficult bit is getting the right people.” So what exactly are the firm looking for in their future legal apprentices?
It’s important to stress that Weightmans don’t expect a legal apprentice to be the finished article. Denise highlights, “We’re not expecting them to come in and working at partner level or running their own files straight away! We’re looking for attributes that we can develop and support.” At the same time, the firm are keen to take on individuals with strong communication skills. “They’re working with the team, they’re working with clients. They’ve got to have strong communication skills.” Now, don’t panic. You may be racking your brains as to when you’ve demonstrated communication skills before, but Denise recommends that you “Don’t undervalue any experience you’ve got, such as part-time jobs, they’re all transferable skills. We don’t expect anyone to have done work experience in a law firm, but to have made the most out of any experience you have, whatever that is.”
However, Denise expects potential Higher Apprentices to have achieved similar grades to those who are intending to go to university to study law. “We’re accessing a new pool of talent, who may have just done their A-levels. They’re just as bright as those who have gone to university.”
Overall, it’s clear that employers, and Weightmans in particular, are keen to bring in apprentices who are committed to a career in law and who are able to apply their experience in a working environment. You can find out more about legal apprenticeships here and check out current opportunities here.