Career Insight – Life as an Apprentice Solicitor in Dispute Resolution at Ashtons Legal

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Apprentice Solicitor, James Myers, takes a look back on his period of training and gives a brief insight into life in the Disputes team at Ashtons Legal.

When I joined the Dispute Resolution team in August 2020, the working world was a very different place; with the trappings of the office having been swapped for a bedroom, living room or other such space as one could locate to accommodate a home working environment.

This extended to much of the work I was involved in, including virtual court hearings and mediations, and whilst the office did remain open for necessary use, the majority of my time has been spent working from home over the past eight months.

Fortunately, the team has remained well connected by electronic means, with training opportunities and mentoring provided all the way through.

What is the Solicitors Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are traditionally thought to be limited to the realm of manual ‘trade’ jobs, but in 2016 the government launched a number of graduate apprenticeships, including the Solicitors Apprenticeship. This offers a different route into the legal industry to qualify as a solicitor and has generally been seen to be a welcome addition across the industry.

The Solicitors Apprenticeship is a six-year qualification, comprised of a law degree set over four years, and the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) during the final two years of the course. During this time, I am able to work full-time at Ashtons, obtaining valuable work experience alongside my academic studies.

How is the Solicitors Apprenticeship different from the traditional route?

The traditional route is arguably much more focused on each individual aspect of your qualification at one time. For example, you study at university, then complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) before going on to seek a Training Contract to gain relevant experience in order to qualify as a solicitor. Whereas the Apprenticeship route bundles all of these aspects into one.

A great advantage of the Apprenticeship route is the hands-on, practical experience that you gain, not only in legal knowledge but also in other practical matters such as dealing with clients.

Additionally, funding is borne by both you and your employer, as well as funding from the government via the Apprenticeship Levy. Therefore it can be a much more affordable option and a real alternative to pursuing a university degree through the traditional route. This is especially poignant given that the Apprenticeship is aimed at school leavers from the age of 18.

In my experience at Ashtons Legal, there is no prejudice between the Apprenticeship route and the traditional route, and as far as the work experience I obtain, I have been treated identically to a traditional Trainee Solicitor. From the level of responsibility I have been afforded, to the nature of the work I am involved in and opportunities presented to me, there is no discrimination between the quality of training an Apprentice Solicitor receives than a Trainee Solicitor, which is a brilliant part of the culture at Ashtons.

What work does a Solicitor Apprentice undertake?

The structure of work as an Apprentice or Trainee often follows a similar format as you progress and gain more experience within the department in which you are working.

Typically, initial experience involves attending client meetings, meetings with counsel and internal discussions to take minutes and gain experience of how litigious matters are conducted, and how to present advice to clients pertaining to this area of law.

This is coupled with drafting experience, whereby I have been asked to draft claim forms, particulars of claim and witness statements, all of which are key components when conducting a litigation matter. Of course, all drafting is checked by a qualified solicitor and then feedback is provided as to what I have done well, or what I may not have done so well!

After a few months, I was running some of my own cases under supervision. This means we can offer clients a more cost-effective service if I am conducting the file at a lower hourly rate, as well as ensuring that more straightforward cases are delegated to staff with a comparable level of expertise, which is a great way to get hands-on experience.

Some highlights of my experience include the various court hearings and mediations I have been involved with, which often bring with them a degree of excitement when a case is brought to a head. It’s a great experience to see counsel making submissions to the court or to the mediator, and whilst these events can mean a very full-on day in the office, the camaraderie of the team working on the case together motivates everyone to push through.

Further reading

If you are interested in applying or would like more information about the Solicitors Apprenticeship at Ashtons Legal, please click the following link:

https://www.ashtonslegal.co.uk/careers/legal-apprenticeships/


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