Jennifer Farrell has successfully completed her apprenticeship at DWF, a leading UK law firm with 16 offices in UK and Ireland, Germany, Dubai and Brussels. She is now a junior paralegal who works on insurance cases in her role, alongside continuing her studies. Jennifer is based in DWF’s Manchester office.
“…I want my role to be used as an example to others within DWF, and also other law firms, that although university is seen as the traditional route (and sadly to most students the only route) that you can be different from the crowd and still succeed…”
From literature to life skills, and then to law
After finishing my A-levels, I knew that I wanted my future career to involve skills that I loved in my English Language and Literature course-reading, for example writing and analysing. I began working in a small office at North Lancs Training Group in my home town of Oldham, where I worked for a year assisting younger people in developing their life skills and employability ready for further education / work.
Following this, I felt I had sufficient experience to apply for the position as a legal apprentice at DWF. It wasn’t until I saw the apprenticeship opportunity that I began to realise just how much the career seemed to match up with all of the skills I had / wanted to develop. DWF is one of the UK’s largest legal businesses and employs over 2360 people across 16 offices in UK and Ireland, Germany, Dubai and Brussels. The firm is known for its innovative approach and advises major companies including RSA, Aviva, adidas and Marks & Spencer.
A rare opportunity
After working for a year at North Lancs Training Group, I had become accustomed to the working world – the routine, reliable income, team initiatives etc. Although many of my friends had gone to university, I didn’t feel that an approach involving study was suited to me. I had really enjoying working not only for my own gain, but for the gain of my team. I knew the apprenticeship offered me a rare opportunity to gain experience and qualify with one of the UK’s best law firms. This I knew, was a competitive position, even amongst graduates.
On a day to day basis, I have my own set of files / cases that I work on. The majority of the work I undertake involves working on behalf of insurers whereby their policyholders have incurred damage to their property and I am then responsible for investigating the cause of the damage, and then looking at potentially recovering the monies back from responsible third parties.
Challenge giving rise to opportunity
It is the challenge that gives rise to the opportunity; the challenge to be extremely self-disciplined gives me the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate just how well I can manage my time and how dedicated I am to a legal career, irrespective of work pressures. There are many times when I am tired from my day’s work and then have the challenge of learning new material, writing essays, and revising for example. This challenge has forced me to become a lot more time-efficient with how I carry out studying.
Managing work and study
I work Monday to Friday, 9-5.30 and manage my studies around these hours, although the firm does give me protected study time which I can use during working hours. Sometimes I can be found reading / jotting down ideas for essays on the bus into work!
I tend not to spend too many hours in one go on my studies. I find it much more effective to do ten minute stints of reading / revising frequently on a daily basis so that I am constantly building on my knowledge without tiring myself out to the point where I don’t take any information in.
The chance to shine
DWF is actively building an inclusive workplace that respects and embraces diversity to give everyone in the business the opportunity to shine. We have a partner-led Diversity Steering Group which is supported by a network of diversity champions across the business. For women specifically, we have recently launched our own women’s network designed to support the development of female talent.
Championing change in routes to career progression
My absolute dream is to progress within the team I work from a junior paralegal, which is my current position, to a Chartered Legal Executive, assisting and running cases with much higher complexity and value.
I want my role to be used as an example to others within DWF, and also other law firms, that although university is seen as the traditional route (and sadly to most students the only route) that you can be different from the crowd and still succeed, championing change in the routes to career progression. DWF continues to grow and is rapidly building its international presence. The firm now has operations outside of the British Isles in Germany, Dubai and Brussels and this looks set to continue to meet growing demand from clients.