Exclusive interview: sacked BBC Apprentice solicitor on her journey from self-funded LPC student to solicitor-entrepreneur

Lauren Riley fell foul last week of Alan Sugar, but the two-and-a-half-year qualified solicitor reckons she’s still got big plans

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More than half the student contemporaries of BBC Apprentice star Lauren Riley that self-funded their Legal Practice Courses (LPC) are still without training contracts, estimates the young solicitor sacked by Sir Alan Sugar last week.

Lauren Riley may have pressed her luck with television’s supposedly leading business guru, but she has been far more fortunate in the legal profession and potentially in the business world.

Despite “rolling the dice” back in 2009 — in the teeth of the worst economic climate for generations — Riley stumped up the cash for her LPC fees and managed to bag a training contract almost immediately. She did her two-year stint at Napthens, Lancashire’s biggest firm outside of Manchester, and is now practising family law as a consultant with St Albans-based Labrums.

And while Lord Sugar took the view that Riley wasn’t making a big enough impact on the programme, the young solicitor is on the verge of launching the fruits of her own business project early next month.

Riley is promoting The Link App, an online tool designed to keep high street law firms in closer contact with their clients, with a focus on residential conveyancing deals.

“When I started in practice, I listened to the grumblings of lawyers about problems with workflow — being interrupted by clients’ telephone calls and e-mails,” Riley relates about the geniuses of her project.

In conjunction with software designers, she developed The Link App to “allow solicitors to communicate directly with their clients. It pushes notifications straight to a client’s mobile ‘phone or other device. That’s the most basic form — the idea is around client service and retention.”

For example, in relation to a conveyancing deal, when purchase money is deposited with the law firm’s client account, the app sends an automated update to the client’s mobile phone or tablet.

“It is about keeping them in the loop,” explains Riley. “And from the fee-earners’ side, it is a very simple application with a lot of the notifications pre-populated, so it saves them time. It is targeted at dealing with repetitive processes involved in transactional deals. Deals where the solicitor should be keeping clients constantly updated with what is essentially routine information.”

Indeed, attracting exposure to her business was arguably Riley’s main motivation for stepping into The Apprentice caldron.

“I am a lawyer with a business training background,” she explains. “The app needs investment because I’ve got so many ideas about where it could go and how it could help law firms and clients. So when I saw the opportunity for The Apprentice I applied. I wasn’t by any means convinced I’d be accepted because there are tens of thousands of applicants.

“I went for the experience, the potential investment and the exposure for the business.”

Riley, who grew up on the Fylde coast in the northwest of England, graduated with a law and marketing degree from Lancaster University before joining the first intake at the Manchester branch of what was the College of Law.

“I was fortunate to get a training contract without any delay, but I’m aware that a lot of my contemporaries from the course still haven’t been offered one. I estimate that more than half that did the course and paid for it themselves have still not found training contracts.”

What would she advise the current crop of law students?

“Back in 2003 at Lancaster University I remember being told that it was very difficult to get a training contract and that it was almost not worth trying to qualify as a solicitor. I don’t think that was the right message then, and it’s not the right message now.

“I would hate to see anyone discouraged from attempting to qualify into the legal profession because it is a great career, and it is a career that offers people the chance to make a difference. There are undeniably some practical issues that have to be considered, but I’ve been able to do it. It wasn’t easy, but people should be encouraged by the successes of those that do qualify.”

The BBC marketing and PR Stasi keep a tight rein on what Apprentice contestants can say about the experience of filming the programme. Riley is therefore reluctant to comment at all about dicing with the likes of her nemesis Mark Wright and Lord Sugar.

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Does she have any regrets about signing up for a dose of hardcore reality television? “I probably can’t answer that,” she chuckles.

For those still addicted to the programme, legal profession interest remains with the fortunes of former Slaughter and May solicitor Felipe Alviar-Baquero


3 Comments

The publicity she has generated would be very useful for setting up any venture. Winning or losing in the Sugar-coated is not an ends to all. She has a very marketable 18 months ahead of her and I hope that she uses the lessons from The Apprentice as well as her marketing degree to set up something that in itself would set her up for life.

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Sodslaw

“Napthens, Lancashire’s biggest firm outside of Manchester”

Niche.

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