Insight into a legal apprenticeship at Cambridge law firm Stone King

Associate Danielle Francombe (left), interviews Emily Ball on her legal apprenticeship

Associate Danielle Francombe interviews Emily Ball who is completing a legal apprenticeship at Stone King.

Danielle Francombe explains:

I am an Associate at law firm Stone King LLP with six years post qualification experience. My route into law was typical of its time; 3-year law degree, 1-year legal practice course, and 2-year training contract. Today, however, there are a number of alternative ways to access a career in the law, including the legal apprenticeship scheme.

My colleague, Emily Ball, spoke to me about her apprenticeship journey so far, and shines a light on the inner workings of the scheme. Emily joined Stone King’s Cambridge office in 2019 as administrative support, before embarking on her six-year apprenticeship to become a newly qualified solicitor.

Why did you choose to become an apprentice solicitor?

Law as a subject wasn’t something I grew up around, it wasn’t an option to take at GCSE nor A-Level at my school. I studied psychology at sixth form then university, and for a long time, I hadn’t ever considered a career in law. It was only once I started working in a law firm after my degree that I realised how vast and interesting the world of law is. 

I have always loved working with and helping people. Operating within the Immigration and Employment teams as administrative support prior to my apprenticeship really opened my eyes. Solicitors support people, whether it be individuals, businesses, charitable organisations or educational establishments. You can make a real difference to people’s lives and I love that.

 What qualifications do you need to become an apprentice solicitor?

The requirements for my course are three A-Levels minimum grade C (128 UCAS points), and five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and Maths.

 I understand that there are a number of different apprenticeship routes. What route are you on, and why?

I’m on the Solicitors apprenticeship route and am completing my course with BPP. This is a Level 7 route, and is aimed at those who have completed their A-Level studies. In terms of other legal apprenticeship routes, there’s now a variety available depending on what you’d like to do. There’s the CILEx (Chartered Legal Executive) route, Paralegal route and Legal Secretary route.

How far into the course are you and how long will it take for you to become a qualified solicitor?

I began in January this year so only a few months in. I sat my first exam at the end of April though which was in equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking! For me, the course is 6 years in total. For those that already have another legal apprenticeship qualification under their belt the study time is usually less. At the end of the course I will sit the relatively new SQE 1 and 2 exams, and upon successful completion I’ll become a qualified Solicitor and hold a Law Degree.

What topics are you covering on your course at the moment?

As the course is an LLB, we cover the topics you would expect of a Law Degree. At the moment my two assessed topics are “English Legal Systems” and “Client Care”. I recently sat the exam for English Legal System in late April. In this topic we learnt all the legal basics, for instance legal processes in the UK, the courts, EU law, Human Rights, etc. I’m found studying this really interesting and it’s helped me bridge the gaps in my knowledge that I’ve acquired so far in the workplace. Client Care focuses more on the Solicitors Regulation Authority guidelines, ensuring we meet our responsibilities as legal practitioners. This is a more practical module and is helping me understand why we follow certain procedures in the workplace. This module is assessed through coursework only. Later on in the course we cover other topics that you would usually find studied for on a traditional Law Degree syllabus, for instance Public Law and Criminal Law. Along the way we also develop professional skills such as negotiation and advocacy.

What kind of tasks do you do on a day-to-day basis in the workplace?

I work in the Immigration and Employment teams and support fee earners with a variety of tasks. I thoroughly enjoy working in both teams, and my work is pretty varied as we operate across the sectors. I do lots of administrative work, file opening, drafting engagement documents, billing, diary management, etc. but also practical legal research. I’ve also undertaken client work, under the supervision of my supervisor. I’ve had a bit of a head start on workplace tasks - I’d already been working in my office as admin support for almost two years by the time I began the apprenticeship which means I’m pretty familiar with firm’s processes and procedures. Aside from that, I’ve also been quite involved with the business development and marketing side of things in the Immigration team. Between Brexit and Covid, there’s been a lot of changes to immigration law! We’ve been working hard to produce webinars and training content to help clients make sense of it all. 

I’m also the CSR Lead and Engagement Representative for the Cambridge office, which means I help arrange fundraisers (for example the office-based Crafternoons and the firm-wide Spinathon), as well as attending sessions with senior members of the firm to feedback on firm plans and initiatives.

How are you finding the work-study balance?

It was challenging at first, but I think I’ve started to find my flow. I’ve not studied whilst working for a few years so it was a bit of a learning curve. The key is to be mindful of your time and capacity and communicating that to your colleagues. I’ve found that ring-fencing my time (for example by blocking out time in my diary to study and attend workshops) has been really useful. Overall, I’m really enjoying the dual aspect of putting what we learn through study into practice in the workplace. 

Why did you want to complete your apprenticeship at Stone King?

Having worked with Stone King for two years before starting my apprenticeship, I knew they were a firm with great values that aligned with my own. They put people and the community first, and I’m very much on board with that. My team and the wider firm have been incredibly supportive throughout the whole process, I’m very grateful to be a part of both.

What would be your top tip for getting into the law via an apprenticeship?

There are many routes to getting into law but for me personally, I secured this fantastic opportunity through gaining experience of working in a law firm and by making my career aspirations known to my employer. My top tip would be that if you get the chance to work in a law firm, or even gain a period of work experience in one, be authentically you, make your career aspirations known, put your best into everything and be sure to take every opportunity possible.

For more information, including details around potential apprenticeship vacancies at Stone King, please see here.

Stone King operates nationally, with its other offices in Bath, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and London.



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