Starting the SQE Apprenticeship as a Career-Changer

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Starting the SQE Apprenticeship as a Career-Changer

When researching becoming a solicitor, I often found that much of the advice out there was prefaced with the journey starting at university: undertaking vacation schemes, joining Aspiring Solicitors and attending all of the law career fairs you can find. Whilst this is key valuable experience that I never hesitate to recommend to current students, it may not have been in contemplation for those who weren’t always aspiring solicitors.

For me, the original goal was to become a barrister; I actually completed the Bar Course and was then called to the Bar. For others I know, the pathway was qualifying into teaching, or studying a degree in a totally different subject area, such as chemistry.

It was whilst working as a paralegal at JMW that I became more interested in being a solicitor and realised that I was no longer set on life at the Bar. I enjoyed what I saw around me every day: interacting with clients, being part of the development of a case and working within a team rather than independently. I decided that this aligned far more with what I wanted from a career.

This was daunting for many reasons: firstly, I still had quite limited experience in solicitors’ work, particularly when compared with the number of mini-pupillages I had under my belt. Secondly, due to the cost of the Bar Course, funding the LPC was simply not an option for me. Thirdly, and perhaps most the relatable to other career-changers, having to go back into full-time study for a year (and then wait possibly another year or two for a training contract to start) felt disheartening after the years I had already spent at university as an undergraduate and a postgraduate.

Incidentally, I had this realisation when JMW was in the final stages of designing its SQE Apprenticeship training programme. Practically speaking, it offered the option to commence training much sooner, as I’d study for the SQE alongside it. I was also spared the need to self-fund the preparatory course due to the apprenticeship element, which was a huge help to me.

What stood out the most to me was the more flexible structure of the work-side of the training. There has been a shift away from the rigid structure of ‘seats’, which suited me as I had already decided I wanted to qualify into the department I worked in (Business Crime & Regulation). The SQE Apprenticeship will allow me to spend most of the training programme in one department, with the option to try other departments that complement that practice area or bridge gaps in my understanding of SQE modules.

Although I was apprehensive about studying and working simultaneously, I can now see the benefits of this training model. The material I learn for SQE1 helps me to better understand what I do in practice, and the technical skills I have developed ‘on the job’ prepare me well for SQE2. As someone who has started the pathway slightly further along in their career, this suits me far better than the traditional LPC and training contract route.

My initial advice to anyone contemplating a similar change in their training or career pathway would be to find a paralegal position at a firm first. It took me less than six months to decide the firm (and the department) that I wanted to continue my career with, and within a year I had successfully applied for the SQE Apprenticeship at JMW. With the prospect of getting started quicker, you have time on your side, so be proactive in finding a firm that’s the right fit for you.

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