'My friends with law degrees don’t work at law firms'

Jordan Coulton was the country’s first higher legal apprentice. He tells his story as part of the #InspiringApprentices campaign

Jordan Coulton

inspiring apprentices vocational education training FE college

My name is Jordan Coulton, I’m 24 years old and I work as a paralegal in the regulatory department at Weightmans LLP. I started in June 2013 as not only the firm’s, but also the country’s first higher legal apprentice.

I am now coming towards the end of my charted legal executive apprenticeship, having recently graduated with the level 6 professional diploma in law and practice and currently gathering evidence for my work based learning portfolio. 

More on apprenticeships: Apprenticeships: 'I have the money for whatever I want to do'

Background: Tes launches #InspiringApprentices campaign

Other news: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign 

No advice about apprenticeships

I left sixth form with a place at university to study law, having achieved straight As in A-level law, psychology and sociology. I was the first year to fall victim to the rise in tuition fees and I recall not feeling sure about the university setting when I went on open days so I did not want to invest all that money into something I wasn’t 100 per cent sure about. I almost felt forced to look at the university route because of advice from sixth-form tutors that it was “university or nothing”. Unfortunately, there was no advice about apprenticeships.

As I was undertaking a new scheme, I expected it to be challenging – which it was – and even more so when I progressed onto the degree apprenticeship. This is because balancing a full-time job with studying was difficult, especially during the degree-level exams, which were academically challenging.

It has however taught me the importance of work ethic and life balance, so I am grateful for this part of my apprenticeship. I am most definitely glad I took this route though as my friends who graduated with law degrees don’t work at law firms and many say they wished they had done my route.

A new route

My dad at first was sceptical because the route was new and he did not want me to take that risk, but having seen the achievements I have made so far in my career and how well I have developed, he and my family are also glad I chose the apprenticeship route.

I have worked across three practice areas while at Weightmans LLP – from employment to disease and now regulatory, where I intend to qualify as a lawyer. The work I am involved in is preparing cases for inquests on behalf of clients who are implicated in these proceedings, as well as preparing defences for medical practitioners being investigated by the General Medical Council. Within the next 10 years, I want to progress within the firm to associate and beyond as well as sit part-time as a coroner.

I really enjoy the work I do for many reasons but the favourite thing about my job is that every case and every working week is different, which means that I keep learning something new each day. I also have the privilege of not always being in the office as I am either at Court or in client meetings and this variety keeps me enthused and engaged.

Learning from the best

I also enjoy being part of a reputable department within the legal sector and learning from the best lawyers in their field who are extremely supportive and do not look at me differently just because I accessed the profession via the apprenticeship route. Colleagues will ask for my views and trust me to make strategic decisions, which indicate they respect my opinion as a fee earner.

The only advice I would give to someone looking to start their career is to make sure they research all possible routes to a profession and if the apprenticeship route is an option – take it! Practical experience will always prevail on the labour market and an apprenticeship means you get the opportunity to develop that but also gain qualifications to supplement and validate that important experience.

Jordan Coulter is a charted legal executive apprentice with Weightmans LLP. His blog is part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign

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