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Maddie is an Apprentice Solicitor in our Norwich office and is due to qualify in 2024/2025.
I joined Mills & Reeve straight out of sixth form. I was in the process of doing a third year of sixth form as I’d failed my first year, and was deciding whether to go to university. I decided to apply for an apprenticeship instead and got the role as an Apprentice Paralegal. I did this for two years in the Mills & Reeve Legal Services Team. Once I’d finished that qualification, I worked as a full-time Paralegal for six months and then started my solicitor apprenticeship in January 2019, which I am still studying towards.
On finishing school I was a bit worn out with studying full time, and even though I was applying to university to do a law degree, the idea of another three years of full-time studying was quite daunting. Everyone else was excited for university, but I wasn’t sure it was for me.
Mills & Reeve did a presentation about the apprenticeship route at my school. I decided to apply (slightly on a whim), because I found the practical experience offered alongside the studying very attractive. I liked the idea of learning by working in a firm, and from colleagues. I managed to get the job and have been here ever since.
When I talk about my apprenticeship, the first thing lots of people latch on to is the lack of student debt, which is true, and is a great benefit. But I can’t say that it’s one that has particularly played on my mind, or led my decision. I still think the practical experience holds more value.
You get to hit the ground running and develop in a professional environment. Textbooks can only teach you so much. I’ve been working with colleagues, dealing with clients, and using the law in practice since day one. I found it rather comforting to do that in an environment where people were conscious of the fact that I was just out of school. Though I was thrown in the deep end, it was a safe environment to learn in and I never felt like I was drowning.
Don't underestimate the amount of work involved. The amount of dedication required isn’t for the faint hearted, as you have to juggle a full-time job with what can at times feel like full-time studying. You need to be highly self-motivated and good at balancing your time so you don’t get stuck in the interesting client work to the detriment of your studies.
You should allow yourself to be open to the idea of a less traditional route into law. I really do think it’s the way to go, and you come out of the apprenticeship having had however many years' experience working in a law firm. That knowledge and understanding will set you up incredibly well for a successful career.
I'm biased, but I do think our office is the best one. Everyone is so friendly and approachable. Lots of people do a lot of hybrid working now, but I prefer to work in the office because it's just such a nice environment to be in. Even if you don’t really know someone, they’ll still say hello. It's not just something that's said, there’s a great culture at the firm, and I think it’s particularly evident in the Norwich office.
Last summer I worked on a large and complex corporate reorganisation. I was proud of the level of responsibility I was entrusted with, and grateful to have the chance to really run with the work. I can look back now and really appreciate how much work we did in such a short space of time, and also how much I have developed since starting my career.
Also, I recently found out that I shall be graduating my LLB (Hons) course with first class honours – definitely a highlight!
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