10 Mar 2017

Sian Bailey writes about the key components of being a legal apprentice and what an apprenticeship means to her. 

I am currently undertaking a CILEx Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Providing Legal Services. This involves a variety of different things, from studying for examinations to undertaking specific tasks in order to meet competency  criteria. My apprenticeship itself is made up of 5 key components:

  1. Knowledge – This specific element is made up of four different units which will be examined, the units are: Introduction to Law and Practice, Contract Law and Civil Litigation – these units are assessed in an examination style, for example I attended an CILEx Exam Centre in order to take my Introduction to Law and Practice exam. However, my Professionals Skills (consisting of Client Care and Legal Research) unit I am not required to attend an exam centre, as these are more coursework based and consist of assessed assignments.
  2. Competency – There are twelve competence based units which cover a variety of different skills ranging from business and ethics for the legal sector to drafting legal documents using precedents. There are two elements to each competency unit – "understanding objectives" and "be able to objectives". The "understanding objectives" for each unit I can either meet them by completing a set of written questions, which I would submit to my assessor or alternatively complete them as oral questions with my assessor when they visit. For the "be able to objectives" I will have to show that I have met each criteria in my daily work. In order to do this I can complete a personal statement setting out what I did and support this with relevant redacted evidence. An alternative to personal statements are observations, this involves my assessor visiting the office so she can conduct an observation. This involves me performing a relevant legal task and her observing me whilst doing so, she will then select the applicable criteria and ask me to provide evidence to support.
  3. Employee Rights and Responsibilities (ERR) – This is a workbook which consists of questions relating to employment, the responsibilities of myself and my employer, equality, diversity and health & safety.
  4. Personal Learning and Thinking Skills -  This is also a workbook which consists of creative thinking, independent enquiry, reflective learning, team working, self-management and effective participation. Unlike the ERR workbook, I have to evidence different situations where I have used each quality and skill.
  5. Functional Skills – In order to complete my apprenticeship I have to ensure that I have completed Level 2 Functional Skills in Maths, English and ICT. However, as I achieved at least a C in GCSE Maths and English, I am exempt from completing the functional skills for them. I have had to take an exam in order to pass my IT Functional Skills.

As you will see above there are many different elements involved within the five key elements to my apprenticeship. I was previously an apprentice in the Flex team within Onshore, therefore I was exposed to a variety of different legal work on a daily basis. I have been involved in multiple areas of law from corporate to employment and I have completed a variety of different tasks within each area. A few examples include; organising and managing HiQ sites, creating E-Bibles, conducting various searches, obtaining official documents, conducting job searches and drafting non-disclosure agreements. I have also been lucky enough to work outside of the office, I visited a client externally. This involved meeting the client, working with them and relaying the findings back to the matter lawyer. For me this was one of my best experiences of working at Bond Dickinson, it showed me that I can confidently work outside of the office and be a part of greater opportunities within the firm. This highlighted to me how Bond Dickinson value their apprentices and like to get us involved with client interaction. Bond Dickinson could have chosen any paralegal within OnShore, however, they allowed me to have the experience of meeting the clients, working with them, building a relationship with them and also representing Bond Dickinson with the correct business etiquette. This showed me that they want to give me the best possible opportunities by exposing me to a variety of experiences where possible. I have also assisted a matter lawyer in a client meeting relating to a corporate matter. This not only allowed me to build a relationship with the client I had been completing work for but it also allowed me to understand and learn how a lawyer conducts client meetings. This specific meeting was based on some very technical elements, by observing the matter lawyer explaining specific technical areas to the client I learnt a lot and it was a very interesting experience. I am now working in the Recovery+ team within Onshore due to my rotation. Recovery+ is a commercial dispute team that has two sides, recovery and defended. So far, I have been exposed to both sides of work but I am now mainly working in the defended team.

What does your apprenticeship with Bond Dickinson mean to you?

My apprenticeship with Bond Dickinson is my future and being successful in my application is the my most significant achievement in life. It has exposed me to greater and wider opportunities which I had never anticipated. The apprenticeship itself has influenced me massively in the past year, I feel as if I have grown as a person through confidence, through knowledge and through exposure to different experiences. I have expanded my work based experience and working with my fellow colleagues has assisted my growth as an apprentice and my team work skills have significantly improved. My apprenticeship  has made me value the legal sector in a much wider sense than I did before and has increased my drive and desire to succeed as a legal professional in order to achieve my long-term goal of becoming a Chartered Legal Executive.

Have you been involved with any charitable, careers or voluntary work to promote your role or the apprenticeship?

In the past year and a half of my apprenticeship I have been involved in multiple varied events. To name a few:

  • I have attended a netball tournament hosted by a reputable company which gave multiple sectors of work the opportunity to network in a different and more social way
  • I have attended multiple careers fairs and talks to promote not only Bond Dickinson's apprenticeship programme but also to educate students on legal apprenticeships as they are still relatively new and not many people are aware of them
  • I have attended the Skills South West Careers event as a representative for Bond Dickinson, again this was not only to promote Bond Dickinson's apprenticeship programme but to also educate students on legal apprenticeships;
  • I have recently volunteered for an external programme called 'Inspiring the Future' which involves attending schools and colleges within the South West for a variety of different things. For example, conducting mock interviews to educate the students on how to present themselves and to give them the desired experience
  • I now manage the Bond Dickinson choir over the festive period to sing to the elderly. I frequently attend and plan practices during my lunch time and I also volunteer to drive to all of the care homes, this gave people who could not drive the opportunity to come and perform too. We performed at four different care homes, the overall reaction was lovely and it was clear that our performance had a very positive impact on them
  • I have attended a Plymouth Junior Lawyers Division charity event which was funded by Bond Dickinson. This was a Great Gatsby themed ball and was a really good experience to socialise with other people within the legal sector;
  • I have delivered a speech to the Plymouth Junior Lawyers Division and have been elected as the Sports Director – a complete new position within the committee
  • I now organise and co-ordinate the Bond Dickinson Sports and Social football which runs on Tuesday evenings after work
  • I was also the first female player to represent Bond Dickinson in the Plymouth Corporate football league which runs on Wednesday evenings. This is a competitive football league made up of a variety of reputable companies and organisations within Plymouth.