This is the DWF profile for those considering solicitor apprenticeships. Students looking to apply for training contracts should check out Legal Cheek‘s main DWF profile.
DWF offers apprenticeships in Liverpool and Manchester and is great option for those seeking a route in the profession outside the London bubble. Apprentices can expect to gain experience in several of the firm’s eight key practice areas which include real estate, finance & restructuring, corporate, dispute resolution, tax & private capital and employment & pensions. With over 30 global locations, DWF attracts top international work from recognisable brands and major banking institutions.
On a high from passing part one of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), we spoke to one of DWF’s current apprentices. Prior to starting, she first undertook the firm’s two-year paralegal version which, she says, confirmed her passion for the law. “Of course, when you’re eighteen you don’t really know what you want to do!” And, although studying law at college sparked an interest in pursuing a legal career, the real “eureka” moment came through her paralegal apprenticeship. As many hopeful apprentices can probably relate, she admits “I didn’t have a particular desire to go to university in the first place.” So, “the apprenticeship route seemed the perfect way into law”.
When it comes to the structure of DWF’s solicitor apprenticeship, the philosophy is “the more rotations you do, the more experience you get and the more rounded you’ll be,” our insider tells us. And with the firm boasting an eight-seat rotation, she’s not wrong! DWF provides a strong and varied training offering for would-be solicitors. From day one, apprentices can look forward to nesting within one team for the first year before beginning yearly rotations around the firm’s key practice areas, including health & safety, insurance, personal injury, product liability, corporate/M&A, and banking & finance. So, lucky apprentices can hit the legal sector at full speed, gathering practical and holistic experience of the firm’s legal offerings. The final “training-contract”-style years entail four six-monthly seat rotations around the firm.
And apprentices need not fear being thrown in at the deep end. Training on the apprenticeship will begin slowly with “more paralegal type tasks for the first few years”. Levels of responsibility tend to really ramp up in the final year or so of the programme, by which point apprentices are expected to be competent at most trainee-level tasks such as drafting documents, undertaking research and conducting due diligence. “I’m in my fifth year now and I’ve been to court several times and attended settlement meetings,” another apprentice tells us. “I’m now at a stage where I’m interviewing witnesses and drafting witness statements.” So, responsibility for legal tasks will grow as apprentices progress, gain experience, and develop with the firm.
There also appears to be no shortage of secondment opportunities at DWF, including both domestic client stints, and international spells to one of firms’ foreign offices. Adventurous apprentices can expect the opportunity to be seconded in the final years of their programme.
The social life of a DWF apprentice doesn’t appear to be too bad either. “It’s not much different to university in that you’re socialising and working every day,” she says. “I’ve never found it an issue at all, we’re always going out for drinks after work or having lunch together.” In fact, she tells us, “some of the people I’ve met at work – apprentices, paralegals and other members of staff — are some of my closest friends who I go out with all the time.” And, having stayed in her home city of Manchester, she was fortunate to have retained a social network away from DWF too. “Your weekends are your own when you’re an apprentice, so it leaves plenty of time to have a great social life outside of work”.
Although unphased by the academic studying initially, the difficulty and intensity of the LLB does increase over the years, warns one DWF apprentice. “You do really need to make use of the study day, and this was something I failed to do initially.” And when asked whether she managed to fit studies and coursework into one day per week, her (very lawyerly) answer is: “it depends”. “Earlier on, it’s very doable”, she says, which is great news for new recruits. “However, as the course progresses, it can eat into evenings and weekends particularly around exam season.” Fortunately, for apprentices at DWF, the firm seem more than happy to provide this additional support by giving recruits time off for study “as and when needed”, our source confirms.
The SQE, however, is a different kettle of fish. Being in the final stages of her apprenticeship, this recruit gives us the low-down into working at DWF alongside studying for the notoriously challenging qualifying exams: “It was very difficult – I can’t lie. I hadn’t touched a lot of the content in the SQE exams for four or five years. And, towards the end of the process it did require evenings and weekends. It does tend to take over your life, but you really just have to throw yourself into it.”
One apprentice, giving us her advice for hopeful apprentices, tells us “be ready to work, it’s not an easy job – but also be prepared to have fun. As an apprentice, you’re in a very lucrative position, so be a sponge and be ready to learn.” And, when applying she says, “don’t be afraid to be yourself. Apprenticeships are designed to be more accessible, so put your best foot forward!”
This is DWF’s Solicitor Apprenticeship profile. Read DWF’s full Legal Cheek profile here.