Apprenticeships are a much more modern approach to learning

Ami Chillcott, Solicitor Apprentice at Damar Training

By Legal Futures Associate Damar Training

What steps did you take to begin your career in law?

I applied for apprenticeships straight after sixth form, having done A-Levels in history, English and psychology and successfully gained a paralegal apprenticeship with RPC. I knew that with the paralegal apprenticeship, I would come out with a qualification after two years and would have had enough experience in the legal field to know whether I wanted to keep going in that direction.

In the end, the paralegal apprenticeship took me a little longer – two years and three months – because of covid. But it reinforced that law was the right career pathway for me and I then progressed to the solicitor apprenticeship with the University of Law in January 2021.

Why did you choose the apprenticeship route rather than university?

The main thing was being able to learn as I was doing the role. It really gives you a lot of benefits to be able to see what you are learning and practice it in the context of the workplace. Also, of course, it meant that I would be getting paid whilst studying. I have friends who went to university and have loads of debt and now some of them don’t even want a career in the subject area they studied or are struggling to get a job. I think apprenticeships are a much more modern approach to learning.

How did the paralegal apprenticeship give you a good foundation in your career?

Doing the paralegal apprenticeship before the solicitor apprenticeship was really important. I know other apprentices who went straight onto the solicitor apprenticeship after sixth form and they’ve struggled to find the balance. But those of us who did paralegal first, we already know how much work we can take on in our role and how to manage the time off we get for our apprenticeship work. Plus, we already have a foundation of legal knowledge. I think it’s made a big difference to me, doing the paralegal apprenticeship first.

Beyond technical and legal knowledge, how have the apprenticeships helped you to develop wider skills?

I’ve developed a lot of soft skills – problem-solving, communication, resilience, influencing and negotiation – as a result of the apprenticeships and I use these skills every day. Time management, for example, is massive in my role. I also have to negotiate with clients and brokers, managing their time expectations. Developing these sorts of skills is one of the biggest benefits of doing an apprenticeship, rather than learning about law, sat in a lecture hall.

What have you contributed to your organisation during your apprenticeships so far?

I have contributed a lot. I’ve worked on some really big cases and have been given lots of responsibility. I’ve helped out in different parts of the firm, including different teams and helping with charity events. I also spent some time helping out on reception, which isn’t something a law student would normally do, but was great for me because I got to meet clients and experience something new.

How have your line managers and others at RPC supported you to achieve?

RPC has been really supportive. They always ensure that I get my allotted apprenticeship study time and apprenticeships are treated as a priority. Associates, managers and other members of the team are always willing to help if I need to get specific experience in a certain area to build up the relevant evidence for my apprenticeship portfolio. And my line manager is always on-hand to make sure that I’m coping with my apprenticeship work, alongside my day-to-day role.

How will the apprenticeship training continue to impact on you in the future?

I have a really good understanding of what I am learning because I am working on cases where I put it into practice. The skills I’ve learned are invaluable and they are ingrained already. I will be able to continue to use them throughout my career. The other great thing is all of the contacts I’ve made already, throughout RPC and other law firms.

What do you enjoy most about working at RPC?

The best thing is all of the responsibility I have been given. Even at sixth form, we were still treated like children to some extent, whereas from the first day at RPC it was clear that I was going to learn and be an active member of the law firm, including time recording, speaking to associates and producing reports. It was a lot of responsibility but I was trusted to do my job, with their support, and that has given me so much exposure to the legal industry.

What are your future career plans?

Hopefully, I will be able to stay on at RPC in a permanent role. But for now, I want to finish my solicitor apprenticeship and figure out which area of law I want to work in.


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