Solicitor apprenticeship profile: Muckle

Newcastle Muckle

Insiders at Muckle give us the lowdown on the firm’s Solicitor Apprenticeship scheme.

Muckle solicitor apprenticeship review 2024 

Chambers Student: How is the solicitor apprenticeship structured at the firm? 

Tracy Murray, HR manager: The solicitor apprenticeship is a six-year programme of work-based learning and part-time study, where apprentices gain the academic, technical, and practical skills to become a lawyer with no university fees to pay. You’ll still gain a law degree, and qualify in the same amount of time as going to university and completing the traditional training contract, but you’ll also gain practical hands-on experience. As part of the apprenticeship, you will also need to complete the Solicitors Qualifying Exams to qualify as a Solicitor. Apprentices at Muckle LLP generally spend their first two years within the same practice area and then rotate into a different area for the next two years. Years 5 and 6 of the apprenticeship generally follow the structure of our Training Contracts i.e., four different practice areas over a two-year period. 

CS: Why did you decide to apply for a legal apprenticeship? What was the appeal of this path into the legal profession compared to other routes? 

Jake Thompson, apprentice: University was never something I was truly passionate about doing, I just thought it was a necessity in order to get the job I wanted. I knew with certainty that I wanted to be a lawyer at 18, so finding out there was a possibility I could start pursuing this almost immediately after A-levels (whilst still coming out of it with a degree) had me sold! 

“I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in law eventually, but I thought that I would need to follow the ‘usual’ university route, which didn’t particularly appeal to me. 

Lauryn Hellewell, apprentice: I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in law eventually, but I thought that I would need to follow the ‘usual’ university route, which didn’t particularly appeal to me. The solicitor apprenticeship route immediately felt right. I knew it was better suited to me as I much preferred the idea of gaining real life experience. I wanted to hit the ground running, and the solicitor apprenticeship route would allow me to do that, so it was an easy decision to make. 

Victoria Walton, apprentice: I’m not sure where else you would be able to get this hands-on experience while undertaking a law degree. It has helped me learn how commercial law works in practice and develop softer skills such as interacting with new clients, building client relationships, and dealing with difficult conversations.   

CS: What is the balance between studying and work experience? How did you find the study element? 

TM: The Level 7 Apprenticeship is a six-year programme of work-based learning and part-time study with an 80:20 work/study split. Apprentices at Muckle have a weekly study day where they undertake the academic side of the apprenticeship at Northumbria University, and we offer study leave when they come to prepare for and take exams. Apprentices also take part in supervised on-the-job work-based learning to meet the SRA competence statements and build up a work-based assessment portfolio supported by their supervisor throughout their apprenticeship. 

LH: When I first joined the firm, there were no expectations for me to have any prior legal knowledge, as thats the whole aim of the apprenticeship. From the minute I walked through the door at Muckle, I was supported, which made the transition from sixth form much easier. Personally, the balance between studying and working has been manageable. With the one day per week allocated study time (or attendance at Northumbria University), I can get the majority of my work done. That being said, there are occasions when I have had to dedicate extra hours to study, particularly during exam periods.  Ultimately, university degrees can be demanding, but if I had opted for the traditional university route, I would inevitably have had a part-time job, meaning study time would have been just as limited.  

JT: The balance can get difficult at exam times, but every student gets stressed when they have exams coming up. The firm does a good job in helping the apprentices with this, allowing three days off for every exam we have, so we can study and revise. I have sometimes had to sacrifice some weekends, but this is usually when I have exams coming up. All in all, the balance hasn’t been too difficult to maintain for me, and I never find myself behind on my uni work. 

CS: What sort of training, mentorship and support do you get as a legal apprentice? 

TM: The team head has overall responsibility for the apprentice's learning and development, but each apprentice is also assigned a supervisor who ensures that they have the relevant opportunities and personal support to enable them to meet the apprenticeship standard. Apprentices will also have a mentor (a qualified solicitor in a different team) - a positive role model who can offer informal guidance, advice or a listening ear should they need one. Apprentices also have a number of support mechanisms that they can access at Northumbria Law School. 

My training was and is not limited to my supervisor... everyone in the team is there to give you work and go through it with you. 

VW: Before I started my apprenticeship, I met with my mentor for a coffee to get to know one another. Doing this before I started made me feel more comfortable as I had already got to know at least one person within the team. When I started, there were a lot of induction sessions which helped me get used to the firm’s individual system and meet other members of the firm too, including the other apprentices. I have monthly check-ins with my mentor where we talk about my progress, things that have gone right or wrong, and how I am getting on more generally. They have been really supportive, especially around exam periods. They appreciate that the apprenticeship route can sometimes be overwhelming.   

JT: My training was and is not limited to my supervisor though, everyone in the team is there to give you work and go through it with you should you need them to. 

CS: What has your experience been like so far? 

JT: The transition at first was both scary and exciting – scary because I felt like I wanted to prove myself to the other lawyers in my team, and exciting because I got to have an early start on my career. Starting anything new will always come with a level of fear in wanting to do well, but the firm, and my first supervisor did an amazing job recognising that I was fresh from school, and so didn’t know a single thing about how to do the job. As time has passed, I have been given incrementally more and more responsibility, which has allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them, improving my ability and confidence to handle matters on my own. 

LH: The most valuable lesson from my apprenticeship is that time management is key. It is quite easy to feel overwhelmed at times, particularly during exam periods, but the key is to plan ahead and make sure you set aside enough time for yourself.    

CS: How does the NESA application process work? 

TM: Muckle LLP is one of the founding members of the North East Solicitor Apprenticeship Consortium (NESA), which was formed in 2017 by a collection of law firms around the North East. The firm works closely with NESA and Northumbria University to collectively run a joint recruitment process. Applications are submitted to Northumbria University, which checks the eligibility criteria to gain entry to its Level 7 Apprenticeship ProgrammeAll NESA firms take part in the application shortlisting process, and successful candidates are invited to attend a joint assessment day. The day is designed to get to know candidates more and includes a group exercise, a written exercise and an interview. If successful on the assessment day, candidates are invited to a final selection process at the individual firms. 

CS: What does the firm look for in the application process? What did you do to stand out? 

TM: Whilst academic results are really important, we also want to hear why candidates feel they stand out. We are interested in hearing about candidates’ work and life experience, not only what they did, but also what skills they have learned. We understand that at this level, many candidates may not have work experience, so we would like to hear about skills gained elsewhereWe also want to see that candidates have done their research and can demonstrate their motivation/inspiration to pursue a career in law in their application.  

I didn't focus on academics too much as that’s what everyone does, and I’m certain recruiters will get bored of reading it! 

JT: Because I didn’t have a lot of legal work experience, in my application form I wrote about what my hobbies (boxing, for example)taught me about having the best mindset and attitude in everything that I do. I didn't focus on academics too much as that’s what everyone does, and I’m certain recruiters will get bored of reading it! I made my application form about me and the skills I have learned through living life and the other jobs I have had.  

VW: I think I stood out during the application process because I was myself through all stages, which fit with the firm as they want people to be genuine and personable.  

CS: What’s been your favourite moment or part of your apprenticeship? 

JT: Shortly after starting, I got the chance to go back to the college I had attended for my A-levels and give a talk to the students. It was a great feeling as I had sat where they were just the year before, listening to the representatives from my firm talking about the apprenticeship. Here I was a year later on the other side, as an apprentice solicitor, giving that same talk to the year below. 

VW: My favourite moment of my apprenticeship so far was when I attended a trial during my first year. Not only did I get to attend a few days of the trial and experience the court processes and environment, but I was involved in the trial preparation leading up to the trial too. This included communicating with witnesses, preparing trial bundles, and communicating with court clerks.  



Find out more about what's it like to work at Muckle here.

Get more information about the apprenticeship here.