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Chris Smith - Solicitor Apprenticeship Journey

Apprenticeships are a valuable way to earn a qualification as they offer real life experience by working 80% of the time in a particular sector while spending the other 20% studying. As a firm, we launched Paralegal and Solicitor Apprenticeships in 2023 and currently have three employees following this path. 

Chris Smith joined us in May 2022 as a Paralegal and he is now coming close to completing his SQE Apprenticeship to becoming a qualified Solicitor. We interviewed Chris last year at the beginning of his journey and speak to him once again to see how the last year has gone as he shares his top tips if you are looking to apply for one of our apprenticeship schemes.

Which apprenticeship are you currently completing?

The options to becoming a lawyer are vastly changing from the traditional law school approach. I completed my LLB Law Degree in the first year graduating in Law from the University of Chichester, then joined Parker Bullen as a Paralegal in May 2022.  I started the Solicitor Apprenticeship, which typically is a two-year course.  There are two parts to the Solicitor Apprenticeship; the SQE1 which features the functioning legal knowledge modules followed by the SQE2 which focuses on developing the practical elements of becoming a Solicitor such as advocacy, client care, and client interviewing.

What motivated you to pursue an apprenticeship?

The greatest appeal of the apprenticeship was the ability to specialise in one area of law. Traditionally, Trainee Solicitors experience four different areas of law and move departments every six months. The opportunity to specialise in one area seemed like a natural route for me as I had already chosen the area of law I wanted to specialise in.

Why did you pursue a career in law?

Originally, I wanted to pursue a career in teaching and in particular teaching religion. I had studied Buddhism in A-Level Religion at Peter Symonds in Winchester and on completing my A-Levels, I joined the University of Chichester on a Religion, Ethics, and Society degree, taking part in a compulsory module of ‘Law and Society’. At the beginning of Year 2 of my undergraduate degree, I moved to the LLB Law degree and never looked back!

What interests or skills do you hope to gain through your experience?

Since embarking on the apprenticeship, the apprenticeship provider and Parker Bullen have increased my exposure to many different elements of Private Client Law, i.e. Wills, Trusts, Probate and Estate Planning. As an apprentice, I have led my clients from the start to the end of their matter as well as assisted on other specialisms including contentious probate. The apprenticeship provider gives all the necessary skills in preparing for your SQE exams; not only with the knowledge but also the practical skills such as time management, maintaining a positive mental health, and managing finances. As the experience is very much ‘hands-on,’ this has enabled me to develop the skills which are not necessarily taught by the traditional routes in textbooks.

What do you think are the benefits of a legal apprenticeship for someone who wants to become a Solicitor?

The biggest benefit of all is the practical nature of the apprenticeship. From day one you begin learning – whether that be the law of your specialism, the law tested on the SQE or the standards required to become a competent Solicitor. The apprenticeship allows you to develop as an individual by providing beneficial tasks relating to the Solicitor Code of Conduct to ensure you are ready to qualify.  

How do you think an apprenticeship is benefitting you compared to other forms of training?

The clear advantages to any student considering a Solicitor Apprenticeship is no student debt from university, no intense studying after lectures and the ability to apply and learn the law whilst being paid.

How do you think this apprenticeship is preparing you for a successful career in law?

I think the important message is that the apprenticeship is more than preparing someone to pass the SQE 1 and SQE2. The apprenticeship provides the practical exposure into the legal industry whether that be in private practice at a legal firm or in-house. The apprenticeship is more about ensuring the apprentice has the standard legal knowledge tested in the exams but that they are fundamentally a competent Solicitor who delivers a legal service which is in the best interests of each client.

Why have you chosen Wills, Probate and Estate Planning as your field of expertise?

In this department, lawyers develop a professional and personal relationship with their clients from the initial instructions for their Wills to administering their estate after they have passed away. It provides an opportunity to work with clients and other professionals to achieve the best outcome for the client. 

Why did you choose Parker Bullen for your apprenticeship?

Parker Bullen is very supportive of career progression and development as an individual. The majority of our wider Wills, Probate and Estate Planning team are studying a course of some description and Parker Bullen has fostered a community which is passionate about developing as an individual and an individual’s self-worth. As I was already an employee of Parker Bullen before commencing the apprenticeship, I was fully aware of the support from the wider team and our closer team in Romsey. This was a significant factor in pursuing the apprenticeship in knowing that I had colleagues and managers who are genuinely passionate about supporting their colleagues.

Apprenticeship Top Tips

As our applications are now open for apprenticeships, my top tips for prospective candidates are:

  1. Take your time to research the firm you are applying for to appreciate and understand their brand. This will be useful for your application and interview to make a good impression but also to ensure the firm you are applying for is the right fit for you.
  2. Ask any questions to the HR manager, the interviewer, or other apprentices.
  3. Take advantage of your free time by developing your CV with work experience.
  4. Complete your application allowing sufficient time to complete the application to demonstrate the best version of you and always ensure to keep a copy after submitting to review before your interview.
  5. Finally, if you’re unsuccessful in your application then ask for feedback from the hiring team. This is essential in ensuring your success on future applications.

Good luck!

How to apply?

You can find out more across our website on our apprenticeship schemes and about life at Parker Bullen. To apply for either the Paralegal or Solicitor Apprenticeship email your application to