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Apprenticeships as a pathway into law

24 November 2022

Partner Julia Perez talks about an alternative pathway into law through the solicitor apprenticeship.  Read more.

It is not surprising that I have always been an advocate of apprenticeships and this approach to learning given I myself over 20 years ago chose a path to qualification, which involved many long hours of part-time study whilst working full-time. Solicitor apprenticeships were not around then but I have been delighted to see their emergence and development over more recent years.

I recall the very first apprentices I recruited many years ago were following business and administration apprenticeships providing support services to law firms. The evolution of apprenticeships to the stage whereby individuals can qualify as fully fledged lawyers bringing with them six or seven years of valuable experience, organically developed from within a law firm or legal business is transformational.

I'm proud to say that over the years I have supported a huge number of individuals via this route and I'm very lucky to currently have a number of apprentices across my teams, many of whom joined our business as school or college leavers seeking an alternative pathway to law and the flexibility to decide at a future point the right career path for them.

The beauty of this pathway into law, and, if so desired, qualification, is the many years of experience an apprentice gains along the way across multiple disciplines, working with senior colleagues absorbing their knowledge and expertise and indeed with exposure to clients across multiple industries. 

Being able to learn and link academia in real time with the 'how' and 'why' and to put this into practical application to deliver legal work is of tremendous value.  Throughout our partnering projects between our legal advisory and managed services division I see first-hand this practical application coupled with on-the-job training allowing our apprentices to translate their learning into real life. The importance of feedback and lessons learned sessions leading to ongoing continuous improvement facilitates the academic learning process whilst simultaneously provides the apprentice with grounding and base knowledge of the foundational core subjects to enable the practical work to be better understood in its relevant context.

Apprentices in my team's flex across multiple work types exposed to a wealth of legal work in a controlled environment. Inquisitively they are able to learn the necessary skills required to operate in a workplace environment, to work in a collaborative way with colleagues, partnering with teams and fundamentally understanding and putting into practice what it takes to establish and maintain strong client relationships. 

I have been lucky enough to support a number of apprentices through from an early careers stage to qualification and beyond. Witnessing their desire to learn, aptitude for growth and in real time deliver service excellence has enabled me to constantly re-evaluate their evolving roles in the business and to support their development. I am a strong advocate in identifying and nurturing talent and creating solid fruitful career pathways for the future, which I believe apprenticeships achieve in the long term.

Through years of working with apprentices, I have found them undoubtedly to be a hugely motivated, talented and ambitious cohort of people who want from the outset to live and breathe the businesses cultures and values with a focused eye on progressing their careers. I can clearly see the long-term plan that they work diligently and conscientiously to achieve. I believe investing in apprenticeships enables us to personalise and shape our workforce, create sustainability and reciprocal commitment, future proofing businesses by the individual's wanton desire to be there. 

In addition, an apprenticeship is not just for those at an early career stage, it really is access for all. I myself, at over 20 years qualified as a lawyer followed a senior leaders apprenticeship and Post Grad course in management practice over the last couple of years (a stark contrast from my legal training but structured around my many years of managing and leading in practice). 

The experience of going back to University after 20 years, whilst completely daunting at first, was an amazing albeit challenging experience juggling study with the day job.  I could never have anticipated the true value of this learning at this stage in my career. It certainly helped remind me of the commitment that our apprentices show every day whilst studying hard to complete their academic qualifications whilst giving the same effort in their day job.  It is not for the faint hearted, you must be highly organised, committed and be able to spin a few plates at once but the reward is worth it.

Kudos to all who find themselves spinning these plates!  


Find out more about the DWF solicitor apprenticeship

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