Apprentices at 30

Apprentices at 30

Following the opening of our Graduate Solicitor Apprenticeship applications, we sat down with two of our new apprentices, Laurence Platt and Oscar Turner McKinnel, to see how they’re getting on and ask them some questions that might help anyone considering a career change.

  1. What were your backgrounds before applying to MM, and what made you apply?

Oscar: My background was in public sector project management following my BSc Sport Science at Leeds. My work wasn’t challenging me technically, and I was considering a career change.

After my GDL, I came across the opportunity at Michelmores. I grew up in the Southwest and already knew of the firm, I did my research, and they seemed the right fit for me; growing and ambitious, while maintaining strong roots in each of their office areas. I wanted a full-service firm, with some specialist areas and individuals to learn from. I’m now in my first seat in Tax, Trusts and Succession.

Laurence: I was an agricultural surveyor, working for a public body. I studied a BSc in Rural Enterprise and Land Management and, despite a thoroughly enjoyable eight years, the work was no longer stimulating me.

There were some overlaps between my previous career and a career in law, and I had always toyed with the idea of making the leap. I had shelved the idea, telling myself it wasn’t the right time. It wasn’t until I met a number of the lawyers at Michelmores and learned, that for many of them, being a lawyer was their second career, that I got inspired and decided to go for it.

  1. Did you have any hesitations before applying?

Oscar: Definitely, I thought apprenticeships were for 18-year-olds, not 30-year-olds! It’s also not labelled as a “training contract” so on first impressions I wasn’t quite sure how long it would take, whether I would qualify as a solicitor, and if I’d be doing the same work a trainee would. (For anyone wondering; it takes 2.5 years, you do, and I am).

Not to mention how far outside my comfort zone I knew the whole process was going to be.

Laurence: I drove my wife mad, discussing the pros and cons of changing my career. So yes, there were a few!

My biggest reservation was the fear of the unknown. I was in an established career, I knew what I was doing, it was comfy. I would be giving that all up to plunge into a new career. It was nerve racking!  However, there was always a niggling voice in the back of my mind saying life is short, just go for it. The feeling of regret over missing out on an amazing opportunity outweighed the reservations I had.

  1. How did you find the application process?

Oscar: It was the same as the training contract applications I’d done, so pretty gruelling. The tasks were challenging, and the other applicants were all strong with a variety of backgrounds. The process was well-run so there weren’t any nasty surprises, and you weren’t left waiting for decisions which was a nice change.

I’d recommend a phone call with HR before the interviews to get your head around what’s coming up. Oh, do your research, because they check!

Laurence: Its not just a covering letter and a CV! It was tough but, in a paradoxical way, actually very enjoyable as well. The standard of applicant was very high, and the tasks were tough. Whilst it can’t be understated that you need to prep, the interviewers also want to know about you, so don’t be afraid to let your personality show. They aren’t expecting you to have a detailed legal knowledge at this stage, they want to see that you have the attributes required to be a lawyer.

There are some excellent trainee blogs and videos containing top tips on how to prep for your assessment day, so I would definitely recommend checking them out.

  1. How has your first three months in seat been?

Oscar: It’s been a steep learning curve; I must admit. I’d only done trusts at university and no LPC, so everything was new.

It’s an exhausting three months but each week you progress and build your knowledge bank a bit more. Suddenly you know how the IT systems work, who to ask for what and you understand client meetings and documents (well, almost).

Laurence: I came into this without a law degree or a GDL, so it was a pretty challenging at first, but the advantage of studying alongside is that you get to practice the things you learn.

One thing that stood out immediately, was the willingness from colleagues to help you learn and progress. Training contracts have been around for a long time, so there are established procedures in place to ensure that you are seeing a variety of work and gaining good experience. It’s almost like being a learner driver again, people understand that we all have to start somewhere.

  1. What are you looking forward to most going forwards? Any ideas of your next seat choice?

Oscar: I’m excited about contentious work, that always sounds juicy. I’m considering a business seat next after TTS.

Like people reading this, I studied contract, tort, public, crime, trusts and business modules in my GDL, so I’d like to do something I haven’t studied directly, like Intellectual Property or employment.

Laurence: I’m also excited for my contentious seat. My wife has always said I was good in an argument! I’m hoping to get a litigation seat next.

As an apprentice you’re at an advantage because you get to do an additional seat compared to the conventional four seat training contract. It allows you a bit more time to work out where you may want to qualify. The difficulty is narrowing it down. Every team in the firm does really interesting work, and it can be tricky deciding on which five you want to experience.

  1. Any advice for other people considering the Grad Apprenticeship?

Oscar: Try to know what to expect; it’s a training contract while doing your SQE’s, so it isn’t going to be easy, it will feel like you’ve been thrown in at the deep end at times. Prepare – everything from going back over your university modules to clearing an office space in your house.

Research and apply to firms that will suit and support you. Michelmores made a real effort to show how we would be supported. It’s difficult to get a feel for firms from desk research so ask questions where possible.

Go for it, I’ve found it challenging but that was the whole point for me.

Laurence: Get some work experience. If like me, your knowledge of what a lawyer does was based on Suits, work experience can be a really helpful exercise to show you what the day job looks like. Not only does it look great on your application, it provides you with an idea of which firms you may want to apply for and will help to put your mind at ease before you make the jump.

The first step in these things will always be the hardest, but I promise you, it sounds much scarier than it is. I’ve been here three months now and haven’t regretted my choice for even a second.

  1. How do you think being a career changer has benefited you through the GSA so far to encourage those who are on the fence about changing careers?

Oscar: I think everyone carries different skills with them – mine are more of the softer ‘people’ skills rather than any technical expertise. I’ve worked with a range of people and clients before so I’m quite comfortable in that area.

Being older gives you some perspective – we deal with sensitive, personal matters and it helps to be able to put yourself in a client’s shoes at times, something I would not have done easily when I was 20.

Laurence: Whilst you may not have the legal experience yet, you will have tonnes of life experience. Its amazing what a different perspective can add. You are looking at things through fresh eyes and who knows, maybe seeing some things that others haven’t.

Make sure your experience is showcased in your application. Firms aren’t looking for the next Mike Ross, they are looking for the attributes that will make you a good lawyer. A lot of these you will have developed in your previous career.

  1. Why you chose the GSA rather than the training contract route and why it is so beneficial for career changers in particular?

Oscar: Well, you’re paid from the start, which was crucial to me, having a mortgage. Financially I couldn’t take another year out to do my SQE’s.

I wanted to maximise my experience before qualifying – this route gives me six months longer in the office, and I’ll qualify faster than my cohort. I think that’s important for career changers who want to get up to speed quickly.

Laurence: It was a no-brainer for me. I was at a point in my life where I couldn’t afford to take a year out to study. It is probably the most accessible route into law. You qualify quicker, you gain more experience and your paid from the start. So what’s stopping you?

Thanks to Oscar and Laurence for sharing their experiences. For more information, see our webpage – Graduate solicitor apprenticeships or email

Applications for our Graduate Solicitor Apprenticeships, based in Bristol or Exeter are open until midnight on 2 September 2024.