Balancing work, life, studies and everything in between

Nicole Marks talks about her experience in the Burges Salmon legal apprenticeship program

14 February 2022

This article was written by Nicole Marks.

Like many, before embarking on the legal apprenticeship programme at Burges Salmon, I believed the only option after secondary education was either to go to university or enter the world of work. At the time of leaving school and finishing my gap year I was playing hockey for the England U21 and Great Britain Elite Development Programme (‘EDP’) and, as such, I wanted a career path that allowed me to pursue all of my goals. 

An apprenticeship will give you practical insight into a career in the legal sector and help you to develop transferable skills that will be valued in any profession. Therefore, when given the opportunity to gain seven years of work experience at a top, independent UK law firm, earning a competitive salary and achieving a law degree - without the debt - all whilst being able to continue with my dream of playing top-level hockey, I initially thought it must be too good to be true.

However, three and a half years on, I can confirm that the Legal Apprenticeship programme is exactly what it purported to be: a new and exciting pathway to a career in the legal sector, supporting me as an individual, as well as a legal professional, and without a doubt providing the perfect combination of hands-on learning, legal studies and a work-life balance.

It would not be fair to say I had no doubts when initially embarking on this career path. My initial reservation concerning the Legal Apprenticeship programme was the potential conflicting time commitments between work, studies and hockey. Whilst the balance can be hard, with the right support network, communication skills and good time management, my job supports my hockey and me as an individual. 

I am beyond grateful for the support that Burges Salmon gives me to pursue my dream of playing international hockey, whilst also supporting me professionally to ultimately qualify as a solicitor in 2024.

My days are full and always varied. I usually train for hockey in the morning - this not only sets me up for the day but also means that I am able to focus solely on work and studies for the remainder of the day. Once I arrive at work, I have breakfast in our fantastic restaurant Glassworks. Burges Salmon has a people-focused ethos and Glassworks provides the perfect place for a catch up before work.

The work that I do is varied; I currently sit within the firm’s Dispute Resolution department and see work in a range of specialisms such as agriculture, public sector and commercial. 

I experience direct client contact, I review legal documents and I am really made to feel part of the wider team. We are given responsibility equal to that of trainee solicitors, which has been reflected in the work I have been involved in during my time at Burges Salmon. This includes attending the high court and an arbitration, and being seconded to a client in London.

All of these opportunities would not have been available to me via the traditional university route, where the sole focus is on studying. It is exciting and encouraging to see the amount of responsibility and the number of opportunities afforded to me already, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds and the new tasks and roles I will undertake.

Anyone considering qualifying into the legal profession should, in my opinion, consider a legal apprenticeship. It is innovative, exciting and - most importantly - it provides the opportunity to continue other interests outside of law at the same time as ensuring you are given the best start to your legal career.

 

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