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Solicitor Apprenticeship – A Different Path With The Same Final Destination

By 28 September 2022No Comments

We hear from Fabian Murray who joined DLA Piper as a Solicitor Apprentice in 2021. 

Tell us about what you do and how you got to be doing it.
I am part of the first cohort of Solicitor Apprentices at DLA Piper. I have worked with the Corporate department for the past year routinely assisting as the only junior on transactions. Matters have ranged from share purchases (buy and sell side), asset purchases, initial public offerings, reinvestments, reorganisations, and private equity. I have now moved over to the Litigation and Regulatory department, where I will be picking up work from: litigation and arbitration, construction and the regulatory team. Alongside my fee earning responsibilities, I am a keen advocate for diversity and inclusion. At DLA Piper I am a prominent and active member of the race and ethnicity network, and I am also leading the launch of the firm’s new social mobility network. Furthermore, I work as BAME Advocate at the University of Law. This role focuses on educating ourselves on the issues faced by those from ethnic minority backgrounds and how we can enact positive changes. Notably, I chair the BAME Advisory Group, part of my role involves consulting with external businesses to increase diversity and become more inclusive.

What does being a Solicitor Apprentice involve?
A solicitor apprentice spends one day at university studying towards a LLB (and the SQE in years 5 and 6) and four days are spent in the office working with your practice group. My study day involves an online lecture at 9am followed by an in person seminar 11-1. This blended approach to learning means I do not miss out on the beneficial aspects of attending full time university. The rest of the day is spent consolidating notes and lessons learned. For the remaining 4 days I assist my team on a variety of transactions and I can truly say, no two days are the same! The type of work I pick up varies from team to team, and this makes my experience varied and exciting because I will have the opportunity to move across up to eight different practice areas. Some of the matters I am currently working on are: preparing applications to court in regards to PPI claims, a dispute in relation to phishing and fraudulent payments and another dispute in relation to the legality and enforceability of business loans.

What made you choose to do a solicitor apprenticeship?
Personally, I felt university would be a continuation of college – studying and passing exams. In order to become the best lawyer I could be, I felt I needed to take a different path and move away from my comfort zone. The apprenticeship provides the best of both worlds, I am able to gain the academic qualifications needed to be a lawyer, whilst developing invaluable practical skills through on the job training. Immersing myself in the legal industry from the age of 18 was a decision made on the basis that by the time I qualify I will already have a breadth of experience of working within the profession. This will not only ensure I am certain on my career pathway, but in turn I will have tried and tested what makes one successful in the legal sector.

What do you see as being the benefits of the apprenticeship route into your career?
Working in the legal profession from a young age is the overarching benefit of undertaking an apprenticeship. Those who are successful in the profession are hardworking, diligent and experienced. I feel that the apprenticeship provides you with the earliest possible start in terms of being able to develop the skills to be incredibly successful in this field of work. The skills that are required include time management, good communication and attention to detail all of which are developed by practical experience.

If you hadn’t done your apprenticeship, what would you have done?
I would have studied law at university and embarked on the traditional training contract route. So, it would have been a different path with the same final destination!

What did you know about the legal industry before you joined DLA Piper?
Prior to joining DLA, I completed a paralegal apprenticeship. This involved 6 months rotations around the following practice areas: corporate, finance & projects, litigation and real estate. This gave me a great foundation and understanding of the legal industry and this knowledge was further developed when I practiced as a qualified real estate paralegal. This experience was incredibly beneficial as not only did it shown me the various areas of law practiced at a commercial firm, but it allowed me to understand the various business objectives and visions that are shared across the legal industry. This has helped shape my approach to working within the industry in terms of what I can do for it, and equally, what can it do for me. However, prior to completing the paralegal apprenticeship, I had little to no knowledge of what it was like to work in law, other than a week’s work experience in a law firm and a law summer school at a university.

What skills have you developed through your apprenticeship?
As I’ve mentioned the practical benefits of apprenticeships cannot be understated. My verbal and oral communication skills have vastly improved through my interaction with colleagues and clients and the feedback I receive means I can consistently improve. My collaboration skills have developed through the countless projects I have worked on as part of a team and the apprenticeship has meant I have been able to adopt a number of different working styles. As I grow and learn on the program, I have found my ability to self-evaluate and set personal goals has greatly improved. This means I am continually growing, and the future looks bright!

What difference have you seen in yourself as a result of your apprenticeship?
I think one of the most noticeable differences is my level of maturity. I feel I have a vision for the future and structured path and see a long and promising future in the legal industry. I also feel that the apprenticeship has given me a powerful platform to enact positive changes whether it’s helping applicants on LinkedIn, undertaking pro bono work or driving forward the diversity and inclusion agenda that continues to flourish. Apprenticeships can be challenging but the rewards reaped from the hard work they demand are more than worth it, and I would recommend this route to anyone who strives for a long and successful career.

What advice would you give to a young person thinking of undertaking a solicitor apprenticeship?
Even if you decide against an apprenticeship, the application process will open your eyes to the industry you will eventually work in. The experience and knowledge gained through this process is invaluable. It’s always good to keep your options open. Research is everything and this will put you in the best place for success. The covers a range of topics including: the type of interview (strength based or competency based), the firm’s values, the work it undertakes, what do its employees think of the business, and most importantly is it the right firm for you? Fully understand what will be expected from you as an apprentice, and decide if you are ready to make the commitment.

What do you wish you had known before starting your apprenticeship?
Looking back, the mindset I adopted in school / college of keeping my head down and getting on with work is not the most beneficial approach to adopt in a professional environment. Yes, of course hard work is appreciated and noted, but two key aspects for success are developing your personal brand and networking. When working in a professional environment, you need to be vocal and visible regarding the work you are doing and ensure that you make proactive steps to build up your reputation. Building up a network of contacts will mean you are constantly provided with advice from those with more experience than you. On one hand, you should ensure your achievements are acknowledged, on the other hand you must be ready to listen and learn from those around you. Being as well rounded as possible is another tip for success. I have found contributions to social events, networks and extra circular activities is a great way to connect with others and improve oneself.

What are you looking forward to about starting the trainee part of your apprenticeship?
I’m looking forward to benefitting from the experience I will have gained moving round the different practice groups of the firm. This will put me in a confident and competent position when I begin my training contract. I am also looking forward to taking advantage of the firm’s secondment opportunities and developing a working relationship with an international office or a client.

To me, a career in law/working in a law firm is…..
Intellectually stimulating, challenging and rewarding. It constantly ensures I continually grow in a personal and professional capacity, whilst also gives meme the opportunity to build relationships and help others.