03 January 2020

By Legal Apprentice, Elliot Hawes 

The legal apprenticeship at Burges Salmon takes six years to complete in full; starting right with the basics of office life whilst allowing you to earn your degree in law and ending with qualification as a Solicitor. The first thing to say about this amount of time is that it is directly comparable in length to the traditional route of going through University, completing the required post-graduate degree (the LPC) and a two year training contract. The apprenticeship is a much more secure route, with the entire process wrapped into one package meaning you do not need to hunt for a space on the next step. Of course, six years can seem like a long amount of time at the offset, but so far I have found that it absolutely flies by.

While there are many advantages to the apprenticeship, one which I am beginning to value most, is the holistic view of different sectors that can be formed during the apprenticeship. This is possible due to two factors, the first being the service Burges Salmon provide as a firm. We focus on providing a full service for projects and being self-sufficient in the firm to handle all stages of legal advice in our practice areas. For example, an Energy project (such as building a solar panel farm) has multiple stages such as planning, financing, construction, operation and maintenance - with the potential of various disputes arising along the way. As legal advisors we aim to be able to provide advice by collaborating through our different departments on each of these stages. The second factor is that as part of the legal apprenticeship we rotate around the different legal departments, spending a year at a time in a specific team; and in the last two years, completing six shorter stints of four months per department to help decide which area we would like to qualify in.

The combination of these factors results in the 'holistic view' of sectors I am talking about. Over the years I have been with the firm, one sector I am beginning to recognise this in most is the highways and transport sector. I have seen different elements of the sector in my time in the Planning, Construction and Disputes departments. With each department I visit I learn a little more about the sector and see it from a different angle. This enriches the new and old experience I have gained and helps to build a full picture, rather than only observing a small slice of a bigger whole. It results in moments where work you have done previously in another department clicks and you understand the reasoning and importance of a certain clause or provision in a contract. Then on the other hand it can mean you know what lays ahead for a project and that can also influence your work.

The structure and length of the legal apprenticeship at Burges Salmon ensures apprentices become well-rounded lawyers by the time they reach qualification, able to view work, clients, and sectors through the different lenses of the lawyers around the firm. This is an advantage which I believe I would not have experienced to as great an extent had I undertaken the traditional route to qualification. By the time I finish the legal apprenticeship, I hope to build a full picture of the highways and transport sector as well as many more.

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