Case study

Toby Ellis — Solicitor apprentice

Womble Bond Dickinson

Toby is working as a solicitor apprentice at Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD), as he looks to achieve the Law LLB from The University of Law (ULaw)

Why did you decide on a career in law?

The main reason I was attracted to a career in law was the diverse areas of work. Even in the same sector, work is extremely varied with a natural amount of pressure, something I personally need to work at my best. Beyond this, the nature of the sector is that it is naturally evolving, with new technologies a key part of the work. This means not only the work, but the way the work is carried out evolves constantly.

What attracted you to the firm?

When looking for firms who offered a solicitor apprenticeship, Womble Bond Dickinson stood out as an incredibly early adopter of the scheme.

While this has the obvious benefit of the firm being more experienced at training and looking after apprentices than almost any other firm in the country, it also showed both a commitment to opening law as a career and to modernisation in the sector more generally.

The accolades of the firm speak for themselves, but it was this commitment to progression that stood out even before I walked through the doors for the first time.

What was the application process like?

Intense, but positive. The process is set up so that regardless of how far you get, you will walk away with new skills and having learned a lot about the realities of the legal sector.

It truly feels like an opportunity in itself to be able to partake in the process, especially the three-day work experience which, even in isolation, is a fantastic opportunity that I would urge anyone thinking of a career in law to take.

What's a typical day like as a trainee solicitor/apprentice and what does your training contract involve?

As a first-year apprentice I have two team meetings per week and a catch-up with my supervisor.

Aside from this, the majority of my time in the property team is spent running searches and reviewing leases, though this ebbs and flows with new work being added consistently.

Variety really is the word to describe the workflow, even on the most 'average' of days.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

My favourite part of my job is seeing matters progress. There is an inherent satisfaction in seeing something you worked on six months ago complete, even at the junior level where your time on each matter is significantly less than a more senior fee earner would be.

However, you are often involved in every stage of the process in some capacity or another, so seeing the progression of each matter happens naturally.

What are the challenges?

Initially, the biggest challenge, especially coming out of A-levels, is the environment. Everyone, from the partners down, is treated the same and are genuinely valued.

Especially as a junior, there is a lot of trust placed on you from the outset which can be quite daunting.

For me, organisation has always been something I have struggled with and something I have had to work hard to improve on as it is absolutely a key skill in this kind of work.

That being said, there is ample guidance on all kinds of skills from the firm should you need it, something which I have used to improve exponentially faster than would have been possible otherwise.

There are a lot of stereotypes about working in law, can you debunk a myth?

The most pervasive, and potentially harmful, myth about working in law is the stereotypes around lawyers themselves; short-haired men in expensive suits and an underbelly of ruthless competition between them. Not only is this untrue but it is also discouraged. Legal work is, inherently, team focused.

What are your career ambitions?

In terms of career ambitions, of course my major focus is on passing the Law LLB and then the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) from there.

Aside from these qualifications, I want to keep an open mind in the workplace and take on a variety of work to find out what kind of area would suit me for the next step of my career.

Why should future trainees/apprentices consider applying to the firm?

I would recommend anyone considering a career in law to apply for the apprenticeship at WBD. The opportunities afforded by heading straight into the workplace and the unmatched experience to be gained from it are invaluable. The firm does everything possible to support apprentices through the course, both in work and in university, and foster an atmosphere incredibly conducive to learning. There really isn't a better option and the application process itself is beneficial.