Holly Moore is a 5th-year solicitor apprentice at ITV, holding the position as the first in-house solicitor apprentice in the UK. Whilst doing this, Holly is now preparing to take the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) after obtaining a First Class Law Degree at City, University of London. Besides working with the ITV Network Legal team, she has also sat with the commercial and marketing, ITV Studios entertainment and global entertainment legal teams.
“Don’t let anything put you off achieving your dreams. There is a route for everyone, and you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
Steps to becoming a fully qualified solicitor
During my final year of college, in 2016, where I studied for my A-Levels in law, psychology and English literature, I started applying for solicitor apprenticeships as an alternative route to qualifying as a solicitor.
I wanted to attend university to study law, but also gain practical work experience, without the financial burden of student loans. The solicitor apprenticeship offered me everything I was looking for; education, experience and a structured career path.
After the application process, I began my career with ITV in September 2016, in the commercial and marketing legal affairs department. Since then, I have moved around the company’s legal teams, working in the ITV Studios entertainment, Global entertainment, ITV Network and ITV Group legal teams.
Whilst working for ITV, for the first four years of the apprenticeship, I studied towards my Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at City, University of London on a part-time distance learning basis. I attained a first-class honours LLB this summer!
For the final two years of the apprenticeship, the next step is to begin the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) prep course in January 2021 and take both SQE1 and SQE2 over the remainder of the programme. I will also continue to work at ITV, and also undertake a secondment to an external law firm (known as a panel firm).
After successful completion of the apprenticeship, I will be a fully qualified solicitor.
An unusual route
A solicitor apprenticeship is a six-year scheme, which incorporates a law degree and qualifying exams, while working for your employer (usually a law firm or in-house legal department).
Your employer will pay for your tuition fees, and you will also earn a salary. The structure of the apprenticeship means that you will work for your employer four days a week, and have one ‘study day’ where you will either study from home or on campus.
During the first four years of the apprenticeship, you study towards your law degree, with the final two years acting as a training contract, where you will also study towards and take the solicitors qualifying exams.
This compares to the traditional route in a few ways, but there are benefits upon benefits on the route I am taking:
- During your law degree, you would usually have minimal work experience, and wouldn’t have solid practical legal experience until your training contract (after university and the LPC [legal practice certificate]/SQE);
- When you take the traditional route, you will need to secure a training contract after leaving university, in order to qualify as a solicitor. Taking the apprenticeship route means that there is no need to reapply for a training contract, this is built into the scheme;
- You will qualify with no university debt, but the same qualifications as those who take the traditional route.
Alternative routes into any career, not only law, can have extremely positive implications on the diversity of the workforce as a whole. Alternative routes may capture people who don’t think the traditional route is for them, be that because of financial worries, concerns about practical experience, or different ways of learning.
These routes can also capture people who feel as though they are ready to start their career at an early age, and who want to continue in further education, but who want to start working and earning, hence the phrase ‘earn while you learn’.
An often forgotten subject, alternative routes can also be attractive for career changers, who may have qualifications in another subject area, and who cannot give up their income, but want to change their career and explore another passion. I think apprenticeships can only have positive consequences for increasing diversity and inclusion.
Juggling work and life
Being totally honest, it can be really tough to balance working and studying at the same time. It is not a skill that comes naturally, and it’s a difficult one to master.
Having the workloads from work, and from university, means that I need to plan my days to the minute, and be super organised in order to achieve everything expected of me. I usually arrive at work early, and study before my colleagues come to the office, work for the day, and then study some more on my commute, as well as my study day and studying at the weekend.
I find that organisation and time management are essential in managing a busy workload. I also make sure that I factor in time for myself, because you become more likely to burnout when you are juggling several different responsibilities at once, without a break.
Staying on my toes
In ITV Network, I have a fairly independent workload, working on development, commissioning and acquired commission agreements for new and returning television programmes, such as ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ and ‘The Chase’. I mainly work across the entertainment genre, having experience in this when working in ITV Studios entertainment, but I have also worked across the drama, factual and daytime genres.
In ITV Group, I am working closely with the brand protection team, focusing on ITV’s abundance of intellectual property. My main responsibilities are to carry out naming clearances for suggested programme names, and provide a risk assessment report on these, as well as maintaining our trademark portfolio and instructing counsel to register trademarks in territories across the globe.
I also contribute to any potential litigation work (about potentially settling a dispute in court), by gathering evidence and carrying out legal research where necessary.
Working in television makes for an extremely varied work life, as new ideas, and potential legal issues arise every day, meaning that you need to have the ability to try new things, work independently and stay on your toes!
I feel extremely privileged and grateful to hold this role, and for ITV to have seen the potential in me as a future lawyer.
Being within the first cohort of solicitor apprentices (there are only two of us!), and being the first in-house apprentice of this kind, has come with its challenges as well as its benefits.
It has been challenging to work through a demanding degree and career, without any experienced apprentices to lean on for advice, or anybody to ask things such as, ‘how do I approach this situation?’ Or, ‘how do I balance all of my commitments?’
However, this has also been a blessing for both my personal and career development, as I have been thrown in the deep end, and learned these skills for myself, which I am now grateful for.
I also feel as though I have been able to support apprentices starting in the years after me, offering them support and advice, and giving them the tips that I have learned along the way. I would have benefitted from a mentor, so I enjoy helping others in the same situation as me.
I have used this platform to deliver presentations and talks, in order to expand the horizons of aspiring lawyers and students, and increase awareness of this route to qualification. It is really important to me that young people know all of the options available to them, and that they don’t discount themselves because of their background or their situation, so I feel grateful that I have been given the platform to hopefully help the next generation of lawyers.
Getting more women into leadership
We should recognise future leaders early in their careers, and offer them career structures and paths to ensure that they realise their full potential. Some companies offer excellent women’s networks and equality groups, which focus on these issues and how to ensure that women achieve what they deserve to.
I also think it is important for employers to be more flexible in their approaches to senior leadership, such as flexible hours, flexible working etc. A woman should not have to feel as though she needs to choose between having a family and earning a promotion, for instance. She should be able to have all of this, with the full support of her employer.
Go for it!
I would advise any aspiring women lawyers who are considering taking a non-conventional route to qualification to go for it! I have had the best experience so far, and this route has put me in the best position possible to have a successful legal career.
My main pieces of advice would be to make sure that your chosen company/firm values women and has a representative management board. This can say a lot about a company’s culture.
Make sure that you are ready for the level of responsibility and independence that this route requires, and that you are sure that this is the career for you – it’s a long scheme so it’s important to be committed!
Don’t let anything put you off achieving your dreams. There is a route for everyone, and you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Two more years…
In January, I will be starting an SQE prep course, and transitioning into the ITV Group legal team full time.
Next year will be an exciting year for me, from taking the SQE1 in November, to my secondment later in the year!
I am looking forward to all of the challenges and opportunities that the next two years have to offer, and the ultimate goal since the start of my journey has been to qualify as a solicitor. Two more years and I will have done it!