Many people believe that in order to have a good law career you must choose the obvious university route and obtain a degree through years of academic study. This, in many cases, is a successful option, but there are other opportunities that will benefit your career and are just as effective; especially in the current economic climate where job opportunities are sparse and unemployment is high. Indeed, graduate students are no longer guaranteed a job. This is why I feel that there should be more options for school leavers in the legal sector.
Explore the alternatives…
I spent several months studying at university after feeling that it was the expected thing to do. After achieving my A-levels, I was pushed by my sixth form college to attend to university; however, I soon realised that university was not the right place for me and I would prefer to learn within a working environment and get my foot on the career ladder. Don’t make the same mistake I did and waste time and money until you’re sure that you’ve chosen the right route. Also, remember that there are plenty of other non-uni routes, such as apprenticeships.
Paralegal apprenticeship schemes, like the one I’m currently part of with DWF, are, in my opinion, a great option. They involve being part of a successful law firm and working within the business on a day-to-day basis, whilst studying part-time for a paralegal qualification. CILEx (the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) is the educating body that the scheme uses. A tutor from CILEx comes in to the business every couple of months and holds sessions for apprentices. You complete a set of assignments and exams on different modules, just like you would when studying at college or university.
What are the benefits of doing a paralegal apprenticeship?
There are many benefits of choosing an apprenticeship over university. The scheme allows you to learn new practical skills whilst developing your knowledge of law. Furthermore, you learn whilst earning a good salary, so you can forget about the thousands of pounds worth of debt that university brings. DWF pays for the course; what more can you want? Especially with the recent rise in tuition fees
I also believe that you have a huge advantage over university students, because you learn on-the-job. The assignments set by CILEx relate to your everyday work and it’s a lot easier to understand law and pick up on knowledge when you’re surrounded by it in your workplace. You also gain extremely vital work experience that every potential employer looks for.
Studying legal degrees at university can take several years; in those years you can develop the same legal knowledge as a graduate, whilst also gaining several years of work experience, which definitely puts you at an advantage.
What does a paralegal apprenticeship involve?
As well as studying for the CILEx qualification, the apprenticeship involves working as part of an administrative team. Daily duties involve: opening different types of files for different departments (which can be an interesting task!), archiving closed files, organising the court diary, processing bills, and generally helping out each department with any jobs or queries that they may have. We have a responsibility to make sure our jobs are done efficiently and precisely so that the solicitors and paralegals can work on the file without any trouble or errors occurring.
Some may say it’s difficult having a full-time job and studying at the same time, but the hard work is definitely worth it. It’s an amazing opportunity and should not be turned down. You have great support from your employer and your CILEx tutors, so if you ever need help or are struggling with an area of the course, there is always a friendly and knowledgeable person to turn to; they are there to help you succeed and all questions are welcome.
Overall, I enjoy and feel proud to be part of the DWF Paralegal Apprenticeship scheme and would recommend it to anyone who wanted to work within the legal sector. I believe that you don’t have to study at university to develop a successful career in law. Before you decide what to do with your future, consider doing a paralegal apprenticeship and remember that university is not the only option.
Written by Charlotte Stainton
Paralegal Apprentice @ DWF
To find out more information on career opportunities with DWF, check out the DWF employer profile now!