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Jason  O’Malley-Lunn

Solicitor, Plexus Law

Quotation Marks
We have worked closely with schools, colleges and parents to overcome this perception

Sustainable careers: how to approach the apprenticeship route

Sustainable careers: how to approach the apprenticeship route


Jason O'Malley-Lunn shares his firm's secrets behind successful apprenticeship routes to qualifying and career development

In 2011 a group of seven school leavers, some with GCSEs and some with A’ levels, joined Plexus Law as apprentices. Ten years later, four of them remain with us.

During this time, our apprentices developed knowledge and skills and have become a valuable part of the Plexus team. Some of the original cohort will be among the first in the country to qualify via the solicitor apprenticeship route and I predict there may be future partner material developing.

We currently have 28 solicitor apprentices working in fee-earning teams across the country and we’re proud of their achievements. However, a career as a solicitor is not for all; many of our apprentices are developing careers as legal assistants and specialising in other areas. The foundation level paralegal apprenticeship has enabled this.

All our apprentices, together with a dedicated team of HR and talent professionals and direct supervisors have made positive contributions to our successful programme.

We faced several challenges in the early days of running apprenticeship programmes and we’ve learned much and adapted our working practices. The key word is support.

Initially, the perception both internally and externally was that apprenticeships were not recognised as an appropriate path to qualification. We have worked closely with schools, colleges and parents to overcome this perception.

As our programme has grown, the apprentices have become strong advocates for their chosen route. We have apprentices who are first in their family to study at degree level and, in some instances, at A’ level.

Bethany Anderson, one of our solicitor apprentices, chose the apprenticeship option over full-time university. She says: “I wanted to continue living at home and to earn some money and become financially independent. I had applied for university, received five offers plus an unconditional offer from Manchester and all my friends went to uni, but I felt it wasn’t for me. It would have been easy to follow the crowd but I decided to do what I really felt was right.”

Bethany also sums up what successful apprenticeship can bring to a firm: “I think we bring energy to the firm and help to change the stereotypical view of a lawyer, given the diverse backgrounds which we all have. We help to challenge the traditional mindsets and reinforce the idea that the face of law is changing.”

So what are our tops tips for success?

Take a different approach to selection – We look for resilience and determination, not pure academics. The programme should be about widening access and, in some instances, bringing opportunities to people who may not have even thought about studying at degree level.

Communicate the challenge at the outset – Undertaking a degree level apprenticeship is not an easier option. It requires discipline and dedication to work and study

Develop a strong relationship with your providers – Getting involved in feedback to influence programme development has also been key. Delivering an apprenticeship requires a partnership between the apprentice, the employer and the provider.

Get parents on side – This has become easier over the years. With the increase in opportunities and in degree-level apprenticeships, more parents are realising the benefits of qualifying as a solicitor in a similar timescale to the traditional route – but with no student debt and a salary from the age of 18.

Form partnerships with schools and colleges – Keep up the dialogue and interactions throughout the year. Get your apprentices involved as they are the best advocates for this route.

Look after your apprentices – Nurture and support them. Your input will pay dividends in terms of their self-development and benefit to the firm. One-to-one regular feedback and dialogue is key.

Apprentices have strengthened our commitment to create a diverse workforce reflecting the communities and sectors in which we operate. Their contribution is invaluable to the firm, both as fee earners and colleagues.

We’ll leave the last word on the benefits of the apprenticeship route to Bethany: “The senior staff can pass on their skills and knowledge; and hopefully they also gain from training and coaching apprentices who will eventually become the kind of young lawyers the firm and the profession as a whole will need in the future.”

 Jason O’Malley-Lunn is a solicitor and head of people talent development at Plexus Law