Solicitor Apprentice at Coca-Cola European Partners.
Growing up in Wokingham, Berkshire, I attended The Forest School and later moved on to Farnborough Sixth Form College to complete my A levels. I studied English Literature, Psychology, Geography, and briefly studied Spanish in my first year. While attending Farnborough, I was lucky enough to have an abundance of tutorial and external body sessions to inform me of my options post sixth form. This is where I came across the opportunity to apply for the solicitor apprenticeship in-house at a large company. When I came across this information, I knew straight away that it would be the perfect way for me to qualify as a lawyer.
"I wanted to qualify as a lawyer, having an academic drive but also a desire for ‘hands on’ learning. A solicitor apprenticeship position therefore seemed a perfect fit to achieve this."
Towards the end of my A-levels, I began to feel a lack of stimulation from solely studying and having no application of what I had been learning in real-life situations. I wanted to qualify as a lawyer, having an academic drive but also a desire for ‘hands on’ learning. A solicitor apprenticeship position therefore seemed a perfect fit to achieve this.
I began my search by simply entering “solicitor apprenticeship roles” into Google, and this is where I came across Coca-Cola European Partners (“CCEP”) advertising a role with a start date of September 2018. This accommodated me perfectly, as this marked the beginning of the next academic year following completion of my A-levels.
Being blind to the world of law and the distinction between in-house and private practice, I conducted my own research to gain an insight and found opinions on the main differences, the pros and the cons of the two working environments.
What I learnt from my research and what convinced me to pursue an in-house training role, was the opportunities it allowed for more hands-on learning in the junior years of my career, by having the potential for a little more responsibility than would normally be offered to an apprentice or trainee in private practice. I inferred that an in-house environment would also accommodate a good work/life balance, allowing me to continue my semi-professional football career in my spare time.
After an extensive and challenging application, interview and assessment process, and achieving above the grades in my A-levels that were required for the programme, I have now been with CCEP for a year with the GB legal team, working on commercial and employment matters. Along with legal skills such as drafting contracts, marketing approvals, and employment law procedures, I have gained an abundance of ‘soft skills’. These are particularly important in-house and essential in communicating with all parts of the business and all different types of people.
"I think by training in both environments, upon qualification I will have a well-rounded and extensive understanding of both in-house and private practice work."
Advising in-house, does not merely involve advising clients of the law. It is about communicating the law and advising in a way that you would to peers and business partners with a different perspective and outlook on the relevant matters. This helps develop a deep understanding of the application of the law in a commercial setting and it is extremely satisfying when coming to see your input come alive, whether it be in the form of a large contract or new product campaign. Seeing projects through from start to finish, is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences I have experienced in my short tenure at CCEP.
I am lucky enough that during my 6-year programme, I will have the opportunity to spend over a year within a law firm to gain other private practice experiences, that I am sure will develop my legal skills and compliment my experience of working in-house. I think by training in both environments, upon qualification I will have a well-rounded and extensive understanding of both in-house and private practice work.
If I were to advise someone looking to work in-house, I would recommend they thoroughly research prospective companies. They should look to see what schemes or action plans the companies have, whether they share any passions in terms of the company’s corporate responsibility and stewardship. For example, from the beginning I really connected with CCEP’s sustainability goals. Also, I would recommend trying to get a feel for the role of legal within the business. I’m lucky enough to be involved in a team where CCEP take a ‘one business’ approach, as opposed to solely a ‘function’. This really gives an enjoyable, rewarding and sustainable working environment.
Personally, one of the main challenges for me, has been adapting to ‘work life’. It is a big step moving from being a full-time student, to working life. However, with the support of CCEP it has become manageable and I am adjusting to the change.
"...once I adjusted to the amount of work and time that I had, I found I could effectively plan my week to incorporate enough study time – and time for myself!"
Another challenge I have faced, is getting the balance right to complete my law degree work alongside my job. Luckily, the two are intertwined into one programme, and I am given one day a week away from work, and use my spare time to focus on my studies. This was initially very challenging, but once I adjusted to the amount of work and time that I had, I found I could effectively plan my week to incorporate enough study time – and time for myself!
I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to qualify via this solicitor apprenticeship route, and although it may have seemed daunting at first, it really is entirely manageable and an extremely rewarding experience.