Ihave been working as a Paralegal Apprentice at Hill Dickinson with teaching from CILEx Law School, for six months.. I started working in September 2016 straight after the summer holidays when I left Sixth Form. Since a young age I always planned on going to university and living away from home.
However as the time to start applying for universities came, I began to have doubts about whether I was ready for another three years of study, nor was I ready to move away from home. I studied law at A level and always enjoyed my law lessons throughout Sixth Form, but had never considered applying for a law apprenticeship until I visited an open day at the firm where I now work. At this open day a current apprentice gave a presentation about what the apprenticeship involves and how you can eventually qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive.
Along with studying law in sixth form, I was also involved in the ‘Pathways to Law’ programme sponsored by the Sutton Trust. This aims to give opportunities to students studying law who did not go to a private school. One aspect of being on this programme was that they arrange for you to have a week’s work experience in a Law firm, which I was lucky enough to secure in Hill Dickinson. During this week I got a feel of what it was like to work in an office environment. I also arranged to meet up with an apprentice who had recently left my sixth form. After speaking to her, I was sure that I would apply for the apprenticeship.
Of course, I was also prompted by the fact that I can ‘earn while I learn.’ I also liked the idea of having a Monday – Friday job and having the weekends to myself which I had not had for three years as I had a part-time job in a hair salon!
I did apply to study law at university, and accepted a place at the University of Liverpool, but deferred it for a year to pursue the apprenticeship application. Having secured the apprenticeship with Hill Dickinson, it exceeds my expectations as I am given a lot more independence than I was expecting.
Within three weeks of starting my apprenticeship, I was gradually given my own case load. Although this was daunting at first, it was very useful to get this early on as the same work is required for each case so I quickly got the hang of what to do.
I also assist my supervisor with her higher cases which I was not expecting. One thing that I occasionally do is take the notes at court and in client conferences. I was also surprised at how much support I am given in my apprenticeship. I have regular catch up meetings with my supervisor to check how I am getting on, whether I have any concerns etc. I also have three-monthly meetings with the HR team which also gives me the chance to express any concerns.
Before starting work at Hill Dickinson I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t find the work interesting as it is such a commercial firm, and as I eventually want to work in the family sector I would prefer to deal with individuals as opposed to companies. However I am now working in the Health department and do find the work very interesting.
A lot of the work that I do on a daily basis relates to the law that I had been studying at A-Level, which I was not expecting to encounter again! On a typical day, I arrive at my desk for 9am and check through my emails for half an hour. I also make a ‘to do’ list, setting out what I need to complete that day. I will then continue work on my files which involves sending letters to our clients to give them updates on how the case is progressing. I will also complete any work that my supervisor sends me throughout the day in relation to her cases. At the end of each day I will ensure that I have completed all jobs, will check that I have submitted my time recordings and will also update a spreadsheet which sets out where I am at with each case.
Every other week I attend a meeting with the other apprentices and paralegals to discuss how our work is getting on as we all work on the same type of cases. I also have a meeting once a month with the whole of my department which is video linked to the other offices across England. This meeting is chaired by the head of our department who informs us of any changes etc.
Within my department, we are sub-divided into smaller teams which all have around six members. I also attend a team meeting once a month. The Paralegal Apprenticeship includes CILEx Level 3 units which I need to sit exams for, so I am also entitled to half a day off a week to complete my CILEx work. I have chosen to take this on a Wednesday afternoon to break the week up. Therefore, I leave the office around 12:30pm on a Wednesday, taking my laptop home with me.
I feel that my apprenticeship has had many benefits. Firstly, I have gotten into the routine straight after Sixth Form of working at 9am-5:30pm every day. Although this has been hard sometimes as most of my friends have gone to university and are going out throughout the week, everyone will have to start work at some point so it is better to start earlier in my opinion.
The main benefit is having money! I have been able to go out most weekends and book holidays etc. without having to worry about money, which is something that my friends in university have not been able to do. Also, I am not incurring any of the debt associated with university which will be a huge advantage when I am older. However, I can still qualify as a lawyer without going to university.
I would highly recommend an apprenticeship to those who don’t want to go to university but still want to progress, however if you are wanting to go out through the week and live the ‘student lifestyle’ then an apprenticeship is not for you.
After I have completed my two year Paralegal apprenticeship I hope to be kept on in my firm and work as a Paralegal. I will then hopefully be kept on for the next stage of my apprenticeship and eventually qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive.