A day in the life of an apprentice – Zachary Coleman, Bradley Saul Solicitors

You don’t need a background in law to do a legal apprenticeship

I come from a very much performance and creative arts background rather than an academic one. I was always confident academically in school, but just found more of a passion for performing and creating. It’s difficult to know what you want to base your future around at that age, especially when academically the skills school currently teaches are rather general, and if you’re not interested in mathematics or science it’s hard to see an appeal to the academic world.

University never seemed quite right for me, especially working up all that debt in an area I wasn’t even certain I’d end up progressing in or even having passion for later on in life. I actually went through a whole variety of options trying to find the right one for me: I applied to join the Army as a Medical Support Officer, but unfortunately was turned down for medical reasons. I looked into Creative Writing, Drama, Performing Arts and Journalism Courses at University, and then later into Charity and Business Development Courses, and have done multiple volunteer projects for charity in the hopes of learning more about charity work and setting up charities.

Education combined with real world experience, what’s not to like?

I joined Bradley Saul Solicitors looking for an opportunity to further educate myself in an interesting field and learn more useful skills as well as gaining further academic knowledge, and after just a little while working at the office I had developed a keen interest in law and the apprenticeship seemed perfect: I had the opportunity to learn in an environment I knew I could work well in, whilst also earning money and gaining real world working experience.

With that in mind, who wouldn’t find an apprenticeship an attractive prospect? It was surprising to me: an academic area of study that wasn’t dull or tedious to me. Education combined with real world work and life experience: it’s as simple as that.

No two days as an apprentice are the same

I think a lot of people believe they have no interest in an office-type job because they’ve not encountered an area of work that appeals to them yet, having only been presented with a very limited and generally non-specific range.

I do whole range of work, really. It can be anything from answering the phone to drafting a legal document. I write a lot of letters, which requires an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the subject matter (in my case usually general legal knowledge combined with Private Client Law, specifically relating to Wills and Probate). I also deal with clients both on the phone and in person, which requires confidence, patience and people skills (particularly when a client will start a conversation under the impression I can answer any question to the same degree as the qualified solicitors I work for, which happens surprisingly often).

Apprenticeships are great way to gain a range of skills

In this way the job also demands a certain degree of detective work and acting, as you try to appear professional and understanding whilst simultaneously working out which department you might forward the client to, what their needs are, or even whether the firm can help them at all. As an apprentice and assistant, you often end up being the face of your office, as you may be the first face clients see as they walk through the door, or the first voice they hear on the phone. Keeping professional at all times is completely necessary.

The work is definitely interesting! There are some arduous tasks for sure: a lot of scanning and filing. But there are also a lot of interesting and bizarre laws and rules to get your head around, and legal documents you get to read and even draft. You meet a wide range of different people on the job, and the process of something that might seem quite simple from an outsider’s perspective can often be long and tricky to negotiate. There’s some very interesting and also some very rewarding work involved, and a lot of interesting stories to take home (which you immediately realise you can’t tell anyone because all the information is confidential).

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend an apprenticeship

In short, it’s education and work experience and instead of working up a debt like you would at University, you get paid for the work you are doing. There are a large number of benefits to this style of learning, and really not a large amount of downsides (I certainly haven’t encountered any downsides).

I would and do recommend apprenticeships to anyone and everyone, assuming they can find one in an area they are interested in. It’s a very underrated and undervalued system.

Legal training can lead to many career paths

After my apprenticeship, I intend to run my own non-profit charitable organisation using the performing and creative arts to get people’s attention and focus on the current important causes of the world. My work experience and this apprenticeship are serving to give me the legal and business skills needed to set up your own organisation, whilst advancing my academic knowledge. It can be hard to earn a living from non-profit work, especially when starting out, and working in legal areas of work can be a stable and effective way to keep yourself going and acquire relevant and transferable skills.

Apprenticeships like this always have an obvious route into a specific career/line of work at the end of them, but they can also set you up for a wide range of other directions, career-wise. Taking an apprenticeship definitely doesn’t limit you in terms of options.

This article was published for National Apprenticeship Week 2017