There’s been a lot of talk in the legal sector recently about apprenticeships. However for some firms, they have long been a part of their recruitment and development strategy.
With offices in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Chelmsford, Horwich Farrelly is a specialist practice with a focus on insurance claims, litigation and costs. The firm’s 350 or so staff include about 55 solicitors and 120 other fee earners. Over the past 4 years the firm has employed around 25 apprentices the majority of whom are still with the firm.
To find out more about the firm’s approach to staff development and apprenticeships, the Manchester Law Society Messenger went to meet Rita McGucken, Training and Information Manager. She explained how apprentices fit well with the firm’s wider ethos:
“We have always believed in growing our own staff where possible and value experience and vocational skills alongside academic strength. This is evidenced in a whole range of areas. For example, two of our partners were supported through part-time LPCs by the firm, whilst all of our twenty-four trainee solicitors previously worked as paralegals here.”
“Crucially though, we have a training structure that extends across all staff, from our post room right though to partner. All staff can apply each year for a training and education bursary towards the cost of a wide range of relevant training. Recent examples have included CIPD qualifications, the LPC, AAT accounting qualifications and even a counselling qualification in one case.”
“In partnership with a specialist apprenticeship provider, Damar Training, we have recruited apprentices into administrative positions and then supported them with training. Importantly though we have always had an eye on progression and so some of our apprentices are now well on the way to becoming fee-earners.”
One such example is Danielle Bird. She joined the firm in 2008 and her first job was in the post room where she completed an apprenticeship in business and administration. From there she has been promoted twice and is now administrative assistant to two equity partners, a role in which she carries out legal research as well as liaising with insurers and other firms of solicitors. She is currently part-way through a law degree with the Open University and at the same time is building her technical knowledge with ILEX qualifications.
Leon Wright joined at about the same time as Danielle and has made similar progress. He also began in the post room and is now an administrator working with the fee-earners, particularly on opening new files.
Another young apprentice has gone from being an apprentice when she joined the firm back in 2006 all the way to managing her own RTA caseload. She commented “it’s demanding, but enjoyable and I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to progress with the firm”.
So what of the future for apprenticeships? Rita McGucken again:
“The development of an apprenticeship pathway for paralegal staff is really exciting. It enables firms such as ours to integrate a training offer that goes from administrator all the way up to solicitor. Firms can now recruit apprentice legal administrators and offer them a qualification that includes legal as well as administrative training. From there they will be able to progress to the advanced and higher paralegal apprenticeships that are currently being developed.”
“Funding support, including fully funded training for the youngest apprentices, means that firms can offer opportunities to young people at relatively low cost. Our experience has been that many apprentices are able to progress and become long-term assets to their employer.”
Horwich Farrelly Apprentices
This article first appeared in the Manchester Law Society Messenger, May 2012 and is reproduced with permission.