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Meet the Hay & Kilner apprentices who earn while they learn

11 Feb 2022

As it’s National Apprenticeship Week 2022, we thought it would be a good time to check in with our Solicitor Apprentices, Jessica Leslie and Rachel Armstrong, who are now half way to being qualified. We asked them a few questions to find out more about life as an apprentice at Hay & Kilner and whether or not they would recommend it to others.

Hi Jess, Rachel – You’re now halfway through your apprenticeship. How has it been so far?

Jess:  It’s been a very positive experience so far with the only adversity being Covid and being furloughed for nine months. I spent my first two years with the Private Client team where I gained loads of experience by going out to meet a variety of different clients. Now, I’m in the Family department which is more suited to my interests. I enjoy being able to help and support clients who are dealing with personal issues and are often in a vulnerable position.

Rachael: Really good! The time has flown so far – I can’t believe we are almost halfway through now. Having Uni work to do alongside my work at Hay & Kilner means I am always busy which, particularly during the pandemic, has been great motivation to get stuck in and learn as much as possible.

Is it everything you expected it to be?

Jess: I didn’t have many expectations going into the apprenticeship. I think coming into Hay & Kilner straight from life at school, and an academic routine, has helped me with the university side of the apprenticeship as I was still used to studying, revising, and taking exams. I hoped the firm would have a positive environment and, in this sense, my expectations were exceeded! I feel I have a lot of support available in the office which is great but I’m also glad I get on with everyone and socialise with colleges outside of work.

Rachael: Yeah, more or less. I would say we’ve had more support than I would have expected – both at Uni and from Hay & Kilner. The Uni modules have been quite intense as there is so much to fit into a short period of time, alongside work as well. It’s great to know that both are understanding of the position I’m in as an apprentice.

You have both just moved seats after two years. Are you glad to have that opportunity?

Jess: I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to move around and gain much more experience than expected. I like how the apprenticeship is much more flexible in relation to working in different seats compared to the traditional trainee route where you only have six months in each. On the apprenticeship we can stay in the seat for up to two years which is extremely beneficial as I can get a deeper understanding and knowledge of that work area. It gives much more of an insight as to what it would be like to actually work in that area.

Rachael: Yes – this was one of the main reasons why I chose to do the apprenticeship. I think one of the real advantages of the way the apprenticeship is structured here is that we have the chance to experience different seats and for longer periods than on a regular training contract. Six months is not very long, and I feel as though I really benefitted from having two years in the Residential Property team. By the end of that seat, I had learnt so much more than I would have after 6 months and developed various skills that will assist me in my career. I am really enjoying my new seat in Commercial Litigation. It is very different to my previous seat! But it has been interesting to experience those differences and see how a different part of the firm work. The work in this seat is extremely varied and I am assisting various Solicitors which is allowing me the chance to learn from their diverse skillsets.

 

Solicitor Apprentices Jessica Leslie and Rachel Armstrong

Six years seems like a long time, why did you choose to train this way? What are the benefits?

Jess: The traditional route is six years anyway (provided you get a training contract straight from university which is very difficult and so competitive). Other than the cost benefits, such as not having to pay for a degree, I gain an extra four years of on-the-job experience which I wouldn’t otherwise have. I am a very hands-on learner and working whilst learning helps my understanding of how the law in theory truly works in practice.

Rachel: It felt like a long time at the start, but I think it will be worth it for the amount of experience I will have. As it is over six years, I will likely have the opportunity to experience more seats than if I had been doing a training contract which was one of the main reasons why I chose to train this way. The other major benefit to me was being able to earn money whilst I studied.

How do Hay & Kilner support you?

Jess: I have a supervisor, Kerry Kelso, for direct support relating to my current day to day work. My mentor at Hay & Kilner is Jan Rzedzian who I have monthly meetings with to ensure legal work, university work and life are going well. I go to Jan with any concerns I have, and he makes it clear I can contact him at any time should I not want to wait until our monthly catch up.

Rachel: We have monthly meetings with our mentor Jan, and we also have three progress review meetings a year with our mentor and a dedicated workplace coach on behalf of Northumbria University. Those meetings give us the opportunity to raise any concerns we may have and discuss our progress. Hay & Kilner have been very supportive with our seat rotations and ensuring we have a balanced case load.

Has there been much opportunity for networking?

Jess: Now that networking is starting back up, I am hoping to get out to some events and meet contacts of the firm. I attended a few events with the Private Client team pre-Covid, but networking is such a big part of the job, it will be good to get out properly. I am also able to attend events with the Women’s Law Division with several H&K members.

Rachel: We also have lots of opportunities to network through various channels, internally and externally, with dedicated groups throughout the firm. It was great to meet so many other apprentices at a recent Women’s Law Division event and share our experiences.

Would you recommend it to others?

Jess: I would 100% recommend it to others. I personally cannot give any negatives about the apprenticeship! H&K have made my experience seamless by giving me support throughout especially during exam periods where they have provided me with extra study days, on top of the 1 day away I am entitled to, for revision.

Rachel: 100%! For the reasons above. I think it is a fantastic opportunity for people coming straight out of school but also for people in my position who may have already done a degree or started a career in another field. It seems like a long time to commit to at the start but the experience and benefits that you get out if it definitely makes it worthwhile.