This is the Charles Russell Speechlys profile for those considering solicitor apprenticeships. Students looking to apply for training contracts should check out Legal Cheek‘s main Charles Russell Speechlys profile.
Charles Russell Speechlys (CRS) is big player within the private client space, covering everything from family and immigration law to art and property issues. But for those hopeful apprentices bent on business law, fear not! CRS also boasts a strong presence across corporate sectors including M&A, real estate, banking, finance, retail, and telecommunications. What’s more, as a trailblazer in the apprenticeship market (the firm has already produced its first batch of qualified solicitor apprentices), CRS prides itself on having a level of experience far greater than many of its late-adopter rivals.
For one fifth-year CRS apprentice, the TC alternative provided a vital ladder into the world of City law. “From my perspective, financially it was just such a bargain,” they explain. “I come from a very working-class background, and going to university just didn’t really seem practical. The fact that [on a solicitor apprenticeship] you can earn a law degree which is fully paid for whilst taking home a salary from the age of 18, I thought was really great.” And, for this apprentice, his vision for the future was clear from the moment he left college. “I did various work experience placements during sixth form, so I had a really good idea of what I wanted to do and the type of law firm that I wanted to work for,” he explains. “I didn’t even apply for university, that’s how set I was on it. I knew what I wanted, and a solicitor apprenticeship with CRS seemed the best way to get there.”
With the opportunity to rotate between all four key divisions of the firm each year for the first four years of the programme, apprentices gain a holistic experience of the legal work on offer at the firm. These four divisions at CRS are corporate and commercial, litigation, private client and real estate. The final two training contract-style years of the apprenticeship involve four six-monthly rotations, with a wider number of seat options becoming available to recruits. Those who grew fond of one seat in their first four years gain the opportunity to rejoin this team in the final two years, with a view to qualifying in that practice area. “All in all,” our insider tells us, “it’s not outside the realms of possibility for apprentices to experience eight different practice areas over the course of their apprenticeship.” Clearly, CRS is very serious about giving their recruits varied training throughout the programme — an attractive prospect for apprentice hopefuls, especially those who are undecided about the area of law they ultimately wish to qualify.
CRS apprentices can apparently look forward to a high level of responsibility “straight off the bat”, with work looking similar to that of a paralegal or, on occasions, a trainee. Luckily for CRS hopefuls, this means that many of the tasks feature real legal work and not just hours next to the photocopier. According to one apprentice, this can look like drafting ancillary documents and corresponding with lawyers and public bodies – but of course, this can vary between seats. “Bundling, meetings and attendance notes – it’s a real, real variety of work,” the apprentice tells us. Work levels rise as rookies gain more experience, but we’re told there is a firm expectation that they keep within their contracted 9-5 hours for the first four years of the programme. “The hours are really good considering how much we get paid!” remarks one flush apprentice.
From the start, apprentices will be enrolled on an LLB with The University of Law (ULaw) before embarking on the Solicitor Qualifying Exams (SQE) in years five and six. As standard, apprentices will study for one day per week, whilst working full-time for the remaining four. And recruits need not fear missing out on standard uni fanfare, as we are told apprentices still can join graduation ceremonies on successful completion of their degree. One fifth year does remark on the significant step up the SQE presents in comparison to the LLB. “I would say it’s about three times harder than studying for the law degree,” he confesses. “You just have to be that much more efficient, but by the fifth year of the apprenticeship, you are already well-versed in managing your time.”
But what makes the solicitor apprenticeship at CRS really stand out? “We do work that a lot of smaller firms would do, such as family law, immigration, IP litigation and pensions — but we do it to such a high level. A lot of other firms cannot compete with the level of resources that CRS brings to these practice areas”, he enthuses. International and client secondment opportunities, though most likely to arise during the training contract part of the apprenticeship, provide another exciting element. We’re told one lucky apprentice was recently seconded to Dubai! Mini-secondments are also commonplace for those who wish to get involved in the charitable initiatives at CRS. For example, apprentices get the chance to spend two-weeks in Greece, assisting migrants with asylum applications. At CRS, we are told, “it’s very much a case of letting them know what you want to do, and they will be accommodating.”
This is Charles Russell Speechlys’ Solicitor Apprenticeship profile. Read Charles Russell Speechlys’ full Legal Cheek profile here.