Jordan: the first Paralegal apprentice at Weightmans

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Find out how Jordan Coulton from the Liverpool City Region became the UK’s very first Paralegal apprentice at Weightmans. Jordan tells his story as well as sharing some useful tips for those seeking apprenticeship opportunities…

How did you find out about the apprenticeship opportunity at Weightmans?
I actually found it by chance. I was helping a family member with their apprenticeship/job search and I came across this opportunity and it was on the Government site.

It was a new apprenticeship and I remember it being advertised as a legal services higher apprenticeship. I read it, and I fitted the criteria. I completed the application which went to the training provider and then was contacted by them to say they felt I would be a good fit for the apprenticeship and could I send them a copy of my CV. I was then contacted to attend an interview at Weightmans and that was back in 2013!

How easy do you feel it is to find apprenticeship opportunities and do you have any advice for those currently seeking apprenticeship opportunities?
I think it is a lot better now than it was when searching for opportunities back in 2013. There is a much bigger push within schools now to put apprenticeships on par with university, which is rightly so, although I am not sure all schools are putting as much emphasis on them as maybe they should There is a lot more attention on apprenticeships now and there is a greater thirst for it. I received no advice or guidance from school as the emphasis was on university.

They are definitely more visible now and people are more aware of where to go and how to find them.

My advice for those looking for an apprenticeship opportunity would be to research every option for their chosen career path.

I would suggest to not just dive into an apprenticeship as they are hard work. There is a perception that it is the easier route when in actual fact it is not as essentially you are working full-time whilst maintaining gaining a qualification and having to study.

People must understand that an apprenticeship is hard work but if you’re prepared to put in the effort then you would reap the benefits.

With so many services available and with many of the learning institutes working to attract new students, do you feel there any gaps or services missing for people seeking opportunities?
I appreciate that there is a degree of commercialism that comes with apprenticeships and or training but there does need to be a greater level of that impartial function to give that advice and guidance. Even essentially to be available for employers also so as to act as a body or the middle man to ensure that they get what it is they want and need and that it remains transparent.

Why be an apprentice or why choose an apprenticeship?
What people and schools underestimate when they’re showcasing university as the only or best option is that lack of experience that is missing from the university route. I know some degrees are designed to have practical elements but it is not like the world of work, it’s completely different.

For example I have been doing my apprenticeship for five years now and been getting that practical hands on in my case legal work experience from things such as handling files and holding witness interviews. We have new starters that come directly from Law School and they are lacking that practical experience and so essentially given the choice I would prefer to put an apprentice in front of a client than a graduate because that apprentice has learnt from their peers. Whilst a trainee would do the same they would have undertaken their learning and then have to do two years of practical training in the workplace.

I have got that practical experience whilst gaining the qualification alongside it so that puts you in good stead for both your own development and progression. If you’re part of a company from very early on in your career you know the company ethos and what they’re about so in my opinion it’s easier for you to progress from within that company. I think there is a greater sense of loyalty also as you are aware of the time and money that the business has invested in you. It’s also beneficial for the business.

It follows on from what is now the cliché of you’re earning while you’re learning but it really is true! I am doing a degree apprenticeship and will get the same qualification as someone who has gone to university. Some people question ‘is it a proper degree?’ and yes it is, it is exactly that! I am being paid to go to university essentially. So stripping it back it’s a complete no-brainer.

People underestimate the power an apprenticeship has or the advantages it has for both the apprentice and the business.

Do you think being an apprentice has helped you on a personal level?
I have been with Weightmans since I was 18 and having a number of personal issues to work through, working has provided a stable platform and some escapism from those things. It has helped my confidence greatly and Weightmans have helped me so much by giving me this apprenticeship opportunity. What they have taught me is that they employ personality and feel that they can teach the rest and they obviously saw something in me five years ago and essentially have taught me the rest.

I have been able to do things personally that my graduate friends haven’t through me being an apprentice. I have had some great holidays, I own my own car and I don’t have the debt that I would have had had I gone down the university route.

I don’t want this to come across as apprentices versus graduates but if you do look at the statistics, apprentices are known to earn more over their career span.

So when you were relatively new to being an apprentice, describe a typical day in the life of Jordan.
I am still an apprentice now but it has changed massively!

I started off with the employment team by assisting with files and working under close supervision and instruction. I had my own mentor who I learnt so much from and would liaise with the courts and draft witness statements.

Following on from working with the employment team I then worked in another department where I was given my own case load dealing with occupational disease claims. It was from here that I started working less under supervision and started to progress further. I would draft my own court documents and attend court.

I am now in the regulatory team and that’s where I see myself once I have fully qualified. Representing and preparing cases for inquests and to also defend doctors in cases so a very broad spectrum of work.

So it has changed so much. I always remember my very first day at being so shocked that I had my own desk and my own name badge. I felt like a Philadelphia lawyer (Laughs). People where I’m from don’t get opportunities like this. I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have been given by Weightmans and whilst I have earnt some of those opportunities I do feel the world owes you nothing and you have to get out there and work and keep your head down otherwise it’s so easy to be lost.

What’s next?
I become fully qualified within the next twelve months as a chartered legal executive. I will be regulated within my own right and a qualified lawyer and will be in a position to own my own cases essentially.

After that who knows. I know I want to stay at Weightmans as I am loyal to them and it is somewhere that I do want to stay. I would like to progress here and become an associate, senior associate, legal director and then partner so can see a future ahead of me.