What will working life be like?
Apprenticeships in law are still relatively new phenomena, but if you're taken on as a legal services apprentice there are several tasks that you’ll likely be doing.
The most common role an apprentice in law can fulfil will be that of a paralegal, although newer apprenticeships may progress you (with a combination of work and study) up to solicitor. The workload for both options may be very similar in the early years. Paralegals provide essential support for solicitors and other staff in a law firm on everyday legal matters. In your job, you will likely take care of large, important loads of paperwork and be the main point of contact for clients and the other parties involved in cases. Some of the more common tasks for support staff include:
- Training – throughout your working life you will be required to attend training sessions about the work you do and receive more of an education in law. This applies to support staff and solicitors alike.
- Bibling – collecting all the documents for a single transaction and putting them into one complete file. You may need to look up documents electronically on the company system or source paper copies. The papers will need to be presented in the appropriate order and format. Many firms will also use electronic bibling (computer files rather than paper).
- Data room services – solicitors may request details or documents about a transaction or case that is being negotiated by another party. You may be asked to find documents or provide information by one of the senior members of staff. Data rooms are strictly controlled and often contain confidential information. You will likely be trained in the correct procedures.
- Photocopying and filing – not an all-day task (hopefully), but making photocopies of important documents and filing are key to keeping accurate records of legal work.
- Client interaction – as you progress in your career you may be given more responsibility. You may interact with clients, assist them with documents or interview them. Later down the line you may find yourself offering basic legal advice.
- Research – perhaps the most common activity in the legal profession. You may need to obtain information relevant to a case or some area of the client's work. You will be tasked to find this information, whether within the firm’s own library of documents or elsewhere.
Working with others
Larger law firms tend to hire school leavers in batches and you may find yourself part of a team of five to ten apprentices. Training sessions may be held together, but it is possible that you’ll be split up as you’re rotated around different departments. Smaller law firms may only take on one or two school leavers at a time. You will be providing support to solicitors and will work closely with them, senior paralegals and supervisors.
As a general rule, law firms tend to understand that the work is demanding and can involve long hours. As a result, you may find that there are organised opportunities for your team or the department at the firm to go out for social events.