01 February 2024

My Journey to Becoming a Legal Apprentice

Since joining Burges Salmon as a legal apprentice in September 2023, I have wanted to raise awareness about the apprenticeship route and celebrate its benefits. This blog is about the journey to becoming a legal apprentice and the qualities of the apprenticeship route.

 As someone who thoroughly enjoyed studying law at A-Level, I wanted to pursue it further. At first, I thought that university would be my only option but luckily, I was wrong, and eventually I discovered the degree apprenticeship route. University had never really excited me and so to learn that I could qualify as a solicitor, gain a law degree without any debt, learn from professionals around me, and even earn a salary while doing so was very appealing.

The Application Process

The application process for legal apprenticeships can be rigorous, but ultimately rewarding. I applied to numerous firms across the country but in the end knew that Burges Salmon was the one for me.

Most applications consist of many stages, usually beginning with a written application which may outline your interests in the company and your reasons for applying for an apprenticeship. Following a written application, you may be asked to complete a Watson Glaser test which requires critical thinking and tests your analytical skills. Not all firms ask you to complete this test or similar ones, they are most common in training contract applications. After this, stages may include a video or telephone interview, a written commercial task, and usually an assessment centre combined with an in-person interview.

The important thing to remember when applying is that the firm just wants to get to know YOU, and so pretending to be someone you are not makes it harder for you to really show off your true qualities.

The Day-to-Day Work

As a legal apprentice at Burges Salmon, I have got involved in so many interesting tasks despite only being there for five months. Some of my day-to-day tasks so far include handling confidential client correspondence, conducting legal research, checking attendance notes for any mistakes, finding available court hearing dates, and billing. The support I have received has been immense, there is always someone to talk to and help; you are definitely not given stereotypical mundane tasks like making coffee just because you are an apprentice. At work, there is always so much to get stuck into and new things to learn; the environment is collaborative, so you never feel as if you have to take a task alone.

The Benefits of an Apprenticeship

One of the biggest benefits of the legal apprenticeship is the opportunity to gain practical experience while earning a salary. Unlike the traditional route, the apprenticeship gives you the chance to earn six years of legal experience in many different fields. At Burges Salmon, apprentices rotate departments each year for the first four years and then follow the more frequent training contract rotations for years five and six. I am currently sat in dispute resolution and will rotate departments each September until year five. Other firms may offer apprentices four years in one department and then rotations in years five and six. This opportunity to gain an insight into numerous legal fields from the age of 18 is one you would not get if you were to take the traditional route and it allows you to gain workplace skills from the beginning.

Another benefit of the apprenticeship is that you are getting paid to learn, every day is a learning opportunity, and you realise that no matter how experienced you might be there is always more to learn. A misconception about the legal apprenticeship route is that your qualifications are worth 'less' than those gained at university, when really you gain a full LLP law degree through your university and often other recognised qualifications. The professional standard for legal apprentices is equal to those for university students and so qualifications earnt through the apprenticeship are not only as good as university qualifications but come alongside years of industry experience.

Furthermore, apprentices still have access to joining many university extracurricular societies and clubs, to get involved in the university experience. The skills and expertise that you can gain as a legal apprentice will ultimately improve your employability in the future and allow you to stand out positively, not only that but they will aid you in becoming a successful solicitor with heaps of experience!

Finally, by taking the apprenticeship route you are essentially giving yourself a clear pathway to qualifying as a solicitor at the end, given you enjoy the work and put in the effort. Whereas, with the traditional route, many students finish their law degree but spend years trying to secure a training contract in order to qualify as a lawyer.

The Challenges of an Apprenticeship

While the legal apprenticeship has many benefits, it also comes with its own set of challenges.

Balancing work and study can be difficult, but you are overwhelmed with support from both people at university, as well as at work. Legal apprentices are studying for a degree and other qualifications whilst employed full-time, which is guaranteed to be more difficult than how studying might be if you were focused on it all the time. But the truth is that you have been employed to learn and so your employer is there for you to turn to if you are struggling to manage your workload whilst studying. It is important not to be too hard on yourself and allow yourself time to study aside from work, your employer must give you 20% of your time dedicated to studying, this tends to be a study day once a week.

Another challenge that apprentices can face is adjusting to a professional environment. For many apprentices, their legal role may be their first office job coming straight from A-Level exams. This can pose a challenge as apprentices need to adjust to their new working environment. For me, this has been instinctive and straight-forward as there are always so many new people joining the firm in a similar position and those around you are open and welcoming which makes settling in easy.

As well as this, the apprenticeship requires you to be hard-working, you will deal with real clients and may have to put in extra hours if needed. As you progress through the apprenticeship, your responsibility will increase which means you may have to deal with more difficult and complex situations for the firm. Despite this being a challenge, it will ultimately make things easier for you for when you qualify and become more experienced as you will have a greater skillset than those who might have not done the apprenticeship route.

As the apprenticeship route is growing nationwide, so is the competition when applying. This means that some apprenticeships have become just as competitive as training contracts, if not more, and so you have to put lots of effort into your application to be in with a chance of securing one. This is difficult, as at a young age you might be writing your personal statement for UCAS too, meaning you need to be well-organised to provide high quality applications alongside your 16-18 exams. As well as this, the application process as mentioned does usually have many stages, each looking for you to showcase different skills. As competition grows for candidates, it is important to not let a rejection get you down and instead use it to redirect you elsewhere, continue applying and learn from your experience.

The Future

For the future of my apprenticeship, I look forward to equipping myself with greater expertise and gaining more experience in different legal departments. As I am only young, I do not yet know what area of law I would like to qualify in, but this only excites me to receive further experience over the next five years. As I progress through the apprenticeship, I hope to continue raising awareness about the route to allow more people to realise that university isn't the only option. As someone who comes from an area with low social mobility, I hope to see more firms in rural areas recognising the benefits of becoming involved in law degree apprenticeships to allow greater access to opportunity for both students and employers.


Overall, my legal apprenticeship so far has been an incredibly rewarding experience. It allows me to gain practical experience, avoid student debt, and work towards my career goals. If you are considering a career in the legal profession, I would highly recommend exploring the option of becoming a legal apprentice.

This article was written by Legal Apprentice, Amelia Hartley-Baker.

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