Halima became a paralegal after completing a level three legal services apprenticeship with CILEx. She is now doing a Trailblazer solicitor apprenticeship
Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?
I was looking for a way to qualify as a lawyer without incurring huge student debt and without competing with large numbers of graduates for a training contract. I also didn't want to risk going through that process, and then years later realise that I didn't enjoy the actual work. An apprenticeship deals with all these issues head on. I won't have any debt or graduate competition, and I have found out sooner rather than later if this is the path for me. I can confirm that it is.
How did you find your apprenticeship?
I came across the Vision Apprentices website, which advertised quite a few legal services apprenticeships.
How did the apprenticeship work?
The CILEx apprenticeship was a two year course which comprised full-time work and part-time study. I spent this time in Withers' contentious trust and succession team. In the first few months, I mainly did admin tasks but very quickly (quicker than I expected) I began to take on trainee level work.
For the solicitor apprenticeship route, I will again be balancing work and study. For the first four years of this six year route to qualification, we will be rotating departments every year and in the last two years we will be 'trainees' and will rotate every six months. My first seat is corporate/commercial and the workload will be similar to that of a trainee or paralegal. I will also be studying for a law degree with BPP. This will take four years to complete and we will have one day off every week to allow us to focus on this. In the final two years of the apprenticeship we will be doing the Legal Practice Course (LPC), or its equivalent.
What did you enjoy about your apprenticeship?
The apprenticeship means I don't have to choose between work or study. It really is the best of both worlds. The knowledge you learn through sitting the exams is directly applicable and relevant to the client work you do on a day to day basis. You do not have to recall something some lecturer mentioned five years ago. Real exposure is one of the biggest perks.
It also means I can start early building a professional network of colleagues, barristers and clients. Also, being surrounded by people who are already qualified is another great way of learning and developing.
What did you find the most challenging?
I found research tasks quite challenging when I began, as I did not have a lot of experience. I was also slightly intimidated by the obvious gap in my knowledge. However, between the regular training sessions at work and my studies I was able to overcome these obstacles.
Balancing full-time work and studying was also a challenge. It took me about four/five months to get used to it, but I eventually learned how to manage my time so that I was progressing both in the workplace and with my studies.
What are your plans for after your apprenticeship?
This apprenticeship has reinforced my ambition to be a solicitor. I have not yet set my mind on any particular area and am excited to try different departments in the build up to qualification.
What advice would you give to others?
If you're thinking about becoming a lawyer then step back and look closely at all your options. Don't decide to pursue the full-time university route just because it’s what everyone else is doing and what your school is probably promoting. There are other routes available which can better prepare you for the role. Apprenticeships aren't just a fall back option anymore. As the saying goes 'be stubborn about your goals, and flexible with your methods'.