For National Apprenticeship Week this year we are taking the opportunity to catch up with people within the Company who are doing apprenticeships. Today we’ve had the chance to speak to Lucy Bourne who is doing one of the Trailblazer Solicitor Apprenticeship schemes.

Lucy is our first Solicitor Apprentice and is working as part of the Education Team based in our London office.

Lucy, tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up in Geldards

Originally, I planned to qualify through the more traditional route and 2 years ago I started University to study Law. However, after two months I quickly realised it just wasn’t the right choice for me. It was a combination of a few things such as the learning style and the University environment which I didn’t enjoy so I started looking into apprenticeships instead. That’s when I found out more about the solicitor apprenticeship and started with my previous firm. Because it’s such a new scheme it was an interesting experience. A solicitor apprenticeship is for 6 years so I had to undergo a few different interviews before I was able to start.

I only heard about the opportunity as I was talking to someone I know, and they are a Partner in another firm, and they knew people who had gone through the CiLex route. I personally didn’t find this appealed to me. It was then that they suggested the apprenticeship route.

How do you find the balance between apprenticeship and work?

It is challenging… I think it’s easy to forget when you think about it that actually doing an apprenticeship, especially now with the routes to qualification changing, is the same as doing a full time University course and a full-time job! I have one day off a week studying which gives me a chance to organise everything, but it is a challenge to juggle a workload in the office with exams and coursework. Having that one day off really helps me to structure it as there is specific reading, tests and weekly submissions that I need to do complete.

What’s it like in comparison to others you know on your course?

This is where the apprenticeship scheme really differs to tradition university. I only really know two others on the course and in terms of the work they do it’s completely different to me. The requirements of the business have to be combined with the educational requirements provided by the university, so work differs significantly between firms, but even between departments within the same firm. I also know one person in my group who has been with the company for 10 years and has almost just carried on with her original role regardless of the apprenticeship.

It can make it feel as if there’s a lack of structure, however it’s understandable when you see how new the scheme is and how it is constantly growing with more and more apprentices joining the scheme. The University do have a student counsel, which is really helpful because as a group we only really meet once a year or so. The counsel makes sure that they act as the student voice and they can raise any concerns higher to the director of the course.

What’s the difference doing it this way than through University?

It’s a lot more of an individual style of studying, there isn’t much of the social side on the course as we’re doing it by way of distance learning, so I’ve only met my other apprentices a couple of times so far.

I would always 100% advocate qualifying through the apprenticeship route to becoming a solicitor because instead of spending 3 or 4 years of your life at University, then 1 year LPC and 2 years training contract, an apprenticeship gives you six years of on the job experience and the chance to be free of student debt. I have a friend completing her degree via the traditional university route, however I am lucky in that I do not need to secure work experience or summer placements.

With an apprenticeship you get the security of placement, which is really rare in this profession and I don’t need to think of fighting for a training contract. I think it is more challenging with an apprenticeship at the moment because there’s an expectation attached to the word apprentice, and because you’re internal you have to prove to your firm every year that you are one step closer to becoming a solicitor. Regardless of this, it is a relief knowing we do not need to seek summer placements and other forms of experience as we receive this every day!

With the routes to qualification changing, what would you suggest to someone looking?

I’d suggest looking into apprenticeships; however it does depend on each person and their own personality. Attending university or undergoing the apprenticeship depends on who the person is and the style of learning they prefer. Due to the different way of learning for the apprenticeship, you have to be more disciplined as you have to work 4 days in the office and then still complete studying during the off the job training day. I think if you’re undecided, people should consider that those attending University to study law are going to have to sit the same end point assessment anyway.

One important aspect I think is the lack of a social side compared to university. There is little interaction with your peers, so you don’t have same experience as university in that regard.

I think the SQE is one of the best things that they could have announced for the new development of law as it may ensure that apprentices aren’t seen as so different. The apprenticeship is so new currently that people just don’t know what to expect from a final apprentice. If both apprentices and graduates are completing the same end point assessment, it makes it better to compare. When it was first announced it didn’t bother me, but the more I thought about it the more I’ve realised it’s a really good thing.

Everywhere you look when you see the scheme it’s trailblazer and new, but now there are more and more firms getting on board and the SQE coming in it really supports the fact that apprenticeships are a good way forward.

It was great to have the opportunity to hear more from Lucy about what it’s like to do the apprenticeship, although one of the best sentences she used must be that everyone should just “Be more like Geldards!” If you’d like to learn more about what our education department do find out here