James' Legal Apprenticeship Experience at Bird & Bird

Name: James Coxshall

Role: Paralegal Apprentice

Department: Commercial


What made you choose an apprenticeship?

Throughout school, I was convinced that would go to university and get a degree via the traditional route and then aim for a career in that field. I always had an intrigue into law but my heart had been set on criminal investigations and the idea of being a detective seemed interesting and mysterious. However, as I grew up and approached my A-levels, I realised that it wasn’t as glamorous as it was in ‘CSI’. However, I still had an interest in law and as the UCAS deadlines approached I found that I wasn’t satisfied with the idea of university, even though that was the main focus of my school at the time. To me there were only two options: University or get a job and work your way up. I started to think about alternatives and if there were any more options out there.

I came across the idea of a legal apprenticeship, which at the time had only just been introduced by the governments ‘trailblazer’ scheme. Initially, I thought apprenticeships were only for occupations such as plumbing and electricians. I found that the new ‘trailblazer’ scheme was aimed at young people trying to enter into professions such as law or accounting.

After further research, I found that the mixture of learning and working would give me the same standard of degree and vital experience that I would receive at university.

How did you find out about apprenticeships that were on offer?

After a focus on UCAS and university from my school, I was largely on my own in regards to researching the types of apprenticeship on offer. This requires perseverance and dedication when finding, comparing and working out if you would be suited to an apprenticeship.

Key to finding out about apprenticeships were websites such as: www.notgoingtouni.co.uk, www.lawcareers.net and www.allaboutcareers.com.

What made you choose an apprenticeship with Bird & Bird?

Simply put the people. During my assessment centre where I came into the firm and looked around the offices, I knew that this is where I wanted to be.

A clear example of the ‘Bird & Bird culture’ was demonstrated in the first few minutes of being inside the building. I was in the lift going to sign in for the assessment morning, when I met Lynne who is the head of graduate recruitment. Instantly, she made me feel a lot more at ease and welcome into the firm. This clear culture was one of the main motivations for joining the Bird & Bird.

What do you on a typical day in the office?

After getting the tube and the train, I arrive into the office around 9am. I log on to my computer and check my emails and the meetings I have during the day. A big part of my role is to assist partners and associates with their tasks for clients; these can be in the form of research tasks, amending PowerPoint slides for pitches to potential clients or proof reading a contract. However, this is not a complete list as there is a huge range of different tasks I can be given on any one day.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

For me, the biggest challenge so far has been balancing the work, university and social life aspects. This was particularly difficult at the start of the apprenticeship as it is a big difference from school, but has become easier over time. However, the positives massively outweigh the negatives that come with the apprenticeship and I am enjoying every second.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

In 5 years’ time I would like to be mid-way through my solicitor apprenticeship, following the completion of my current paralegal apprenticeship. In 10 years’ time I would like to be at Bird & Bird as an Associate after completing my apprenticeships and becoming a qualified lawyer.

What advice would you give to people interested in a legal apprenticeship?

My advice for people who are interested in a Law Apprenticeship would be to persevere with their research into different law firms. You will gain a huge advantage as you will build up years of experience as well as gaining a degree at the same time. In addition, you don’t end up with large amounts of debt building up from university.