Guest post by Jemma Nwachukwu, a graduate solicitor apprentice at the Government Legal Department
I joined the Government Legal Department in September 2023 as a graduate solicitor apprentice. I am currently in the Ministry of Justice legal advisers team, working directly in the central legal team. Luckily for me, this team provides advisory and litigation services, so I have a dynamic blend of work.
My legal journey began studying business management and law at De Montfort University. After graduating, I completed the graduate diploma in law and then worked as a paralegal, which provided me with real insight into the life of a solicitor.
As a paralegal, I worked alongside trainee solicitors, senior solicitors and partners, undertaking a wide variety of administrative and legal work. Primarily, my role was to support the solicitors with their work and manage my own caseload of files.
I chose to do the graduate solicitor apprenticeship because it affords me hands-on experience in a legal setting while concurrently studying for the SQE. This dual approach allows me to work and learn simultaneously.
After successfully completing the apprenticeship and meeting the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s requirements, I will become a qualified solicitor. The apprenticeship feels specifically tailored to my professional ambitions. I am given challenging work, responsibility and autonomy over my work, and support with the Solicitors Qualifying Examination course.
As I was already working in the civil service, I knew that I wanted to continue my legal career here. So, I went on the Civil Service Jobs website and searched for the apprenticeship, made note of the key deadline dates, so I could draft and submit my application around my work schedule.
I have been given a lot of responsibility by my colleagues and solicitors outside of my team, offering me a wide range of opportunities to develop from.
I currently carry out a variety of activities, such as acting for the director of legal aid casework in relation to individual funding decisions, working as the court liaison for the civil litigation team, clerking for special controls review panel meetings, carrying out merit reviews of criminal litigation cases and assisting the human rights, private international law and legal services team with preparing draft amendments to acts of Parliament and statutory instruments.
The support and guidance I have been given throughout my apprenticeship has been faultless, as everybody is approachable, and willing to assist and provide me with feedback.
The challenge I faced initially was balancing the demands of work and study. Juggling work responsibilities and academic commitments required me to proactively plan my schedule, set realistic goals and speak with my team to discuss support and my capacity.
By doing so, I was able to relax more into my role, ensure all my responsibilities are completed, and realise that help is always there for me should I ever need it.
The graduate solicitor apprenticeship offers a different opportunity to develop your legal career. The rising expenses linked to undergraduate and postgraduate education for the traditional route into becoming a solicitor is becoming a barrier for some who want to enter the profession. The apprenticeship gives trainees a well-rounded, practical understanding of the legal landscape with guidance from experts, while also allowing GLD to benefit from having extra hands on the legal matters it deals with.
To get the most value out of the apprenticeship, I would recommend maintaining a work-life balance, staying connected with the other apprentices in your cohort, obtaining feedback, networking, getting into a routine, and making sure you ultimately enjoy yourself!
Apprenticeships are an important part of GLD’s learning and development offer across professions. To find out more about government apprenticeships, please visit Apprenticeships | Civil Service Careers (civil-service-careers.gov.uk)