This is the Irwin Mitchell profile for those considering solicitor apprenticeships. Students looking to apply for training contracts should check out Legal Cheek‘s main Irwin Mitchell profile.
A recognisable name within the legal industry, sources tell us Irwin Mitchell (IM) offers a varied solicitor apprenticeship with an emphasis on flexibility. With a staggering 17 offices across the UK, many of which take on apprentices, this national giant is a strong newcomer to the apprenticeship game. The outfit acts across eight main sectors including financial services, manufacturing, media, real estate and technology, which in turn provides fertile learning ground across the six-year programme.
Speaking on why she chose the solicitor apprenticeship route, a second-year rookie tells us, “I’ve always been one of those people who has never really fancied university, I’m not a party animal and I didn’t fancy living in a cardboard box for three years!” With the opportunity to come out the other side of an apprenticeship as a qualified solicitor with a law degree – and without any debt – it’s an attractive option for those set on the solicitor life.
For her, the flexible working policies at IM were one of the attractions of the firm. “I applied for lots of firms, but I was drawn to IM because of the flexible working policy. They are very happy for you to be your own boss and work your own hours,” she told us. Plus, she adds, “as a full-service law firm, it’s very attractive to know that I’m going to get experience in lots of areas of the business, build my career, and in a firm that is not so corporate-y.”
IM boasts an array of practice areas under its three umbrellas of corporate, personal, and private client. Apprentices can expect to be recruited into one of these practice areas for the majority of their six-year stint. It is not yet confirmed whether recruits will complete a “training contract”-style rotation in their final two years: “it’s a possibility – it’s not set in stone,” we are told. Understandably, the firm is conscious of fitting seat rotations around studying for the Solicitor Qualifying Exams (SQE).
What’s more, there is plenty of interesting work available for apprentices who can prove themselves. “My workload is the same as a paralegal or a trainee in the team,” one second-year apprentice says. “I’m given the same tasks, and I do the same hours. It really depends on your ability and your willingness to undertake new challenges and responsibilities.” The first few legal tasks that apprentices are given are more light-touch, to allow newbies to absorb themselves into the workplace, we’re told. “But I’ve really seen a difference in the level of tasks that I’m given in my second year,” another source tells us. “At the moment, the junior members of my team [including paralegals, trainees and apprentices] split the workload equally, giving me plenty of chances to take in trainee-level tasks”.
Recruits also have plenty of opportunities to explore other parts of the UK. “There are chances to go to different offices for events, and there are always loads going on,” an apprentice tells us. “I also had the opportunity to witness a criminal trial for a week within my first few months, which was really exciting.”
On the educational side, “of course, it’s a lot – you’re learning a degree,” one apprentice tells us. “It’s not going to be a walk in the park. But the way The University of Law have structured the programme makes it very manageable,” we’re told. “Going into year two, I’ve found a routine that works for me, even though at first it seems like a bit of a mountain-climb in terms of the volume of work,” they explain. And this seems like a common sentiment amongst IM apprentices. Another remarks that it takes some time to get adjusted and “in the swing of things” – “it’s a different type of learning, it’s online and the essay styles are different. Nevertheless, with flexible working policies at IM, the study day is flexible, so you can choose whichever day works best for you.” “It’s also been amazing to go to the events put on by ULaw, and meet the rest of the cohort”, a Southampton-based IM apprentice relays. “It’s a really great way to socialise with other apprentices across the country who can relate to your experiences.”
Although IM, having a huge national spread, provides plenty of opportunities to join the firm from your hometown, one interviewee made the move to Southampton straight from school. “I was happy to move down from Walsall to Southampton, and in a way, I considered it akin to moving to uni. I’m actually in uni accommodation, so it’s very similar because I have my flatmates who I’m very close to, and I’m in a very social environment at my home away from home”.
Lucky for this adventurous apprentice, she’s managed to integrate her hobbies into her new city through finding a local Church and a netball team. Working at IM has also provided ample opportunity to get involved with projects that she cares about. “One of the first groups I joined at IM was our charity in Southampton,” she says. “The first event I helped to organise was taking the team over to Portsmouth to help in a food shelter.” For her, one of the greatest things about the IM apprenticeship is the ability to get involved in initiatives like this which give back to the wider community.
“The atmosphere is my favourite thing about IM,” one spy says. “Everybody gets along like a house on fire, and you can ask the smallest of questions and they’ll always make time for you. This was so important to me because I didn’t have a legal background or any legal experience, but they have always treated me the same as the rest of the team.” Another lucky IM recruit echoes the sentiment, emphasising the supportive culture of the firm, the flexible working, and the opportunity to specialise. “My advice for people considering an apprenticeship at IM,” she says, “is to just do it – they’re not looking for the most academic, necessarily. They value creative thinking, good communication and demonstrable passion for law.”
This is Irwin Mitchell’s Solicitor Apprenticeship profile. Read Irwin Mitchell’s full Legal Cheek profile here.