Liam Flanagan, Business Administration and Law apprentice

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Liam studied a BTEC and an apprenticeship and has since progressed on to become a paralegal at Howells Solicitors. Find out how his BTEC got him to where he is now... 

Hi Liam, thanks for wanting to share your story with us. You’re currently working at Howells Solicitors, a popular law firm in North England. What’s your role at this firm and how long have you been working here?

I am currently a Paralegal working in our Matrimonial department at Howells Solicitors. I have been working at Howells for 4 years.

How did you get your position at Howells Solicitors? What’s it like working there? What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I got my current position after working for a short time in the Employment and Discrimination department as a Paralegal. I applied and was successful in getting the job. Working at Howells is great, the training is brilliant, and everyone here is willing to help you whenever you need it. Everyone at Howells are very dedicated to ensuring our clients are given the best care that we can provide.

A typical day for me can vary depending on what needs doing. There are days when I can have clients who come in for straightforward divorce matters, injunction matters, children matters etc. Then there are days when a colleague will send me to court to assist on matters there. I have been to a variety of different places which I might not have been able to do had I not been working in this team. For example, I was fortunate enough to visit the Royal Courts of justice in London which is a magnificent building.

Have there been any highlights from your career and/or your apprenticeship that you’re really proud of?

Winning my BTEC award in 2015 was a definite highlight, as I never expected to win something for the work I was doing. Since then, managing to pass all my CILEX exams so far has been another highlight. I will hopefully be starting my level 6 soon. Becoming a Paralegal at Howells was the biggest achievement for me, because it's working towards my goal of becoming fully qualified. 

When did you start your apprenticeship in Business Administration and Law? Why did this feel like this was the best pathway for you to take?

I started my apprenticeship in January 2014. I had always had an interest in law and was studying it at A level at Hillsborough college. My Tutor advised me that getting into law by doing an Apprenticeship and CILEX was the best way as most places require experience. I had done some shadowing at Howells before my apprenticeship and Howells is a firm with a great reputation, so as soon as I saw the advert for the apprenticeship I knew it was time to stop thinking about working in a law firm and to start gaining the valuable experience needed. The apprenticeship has provided me an opportunity to learn and gain the experience I need to move forward.

How did you find your apprenticeship? Do you have any advice to other students considering an apprenticeship? 

I found the apprenticeship via a company called Interserve. I visited them on the Monday, they set the interview up on the Friday and later that day I was told I would be working at Howells from January. My advice to people considering an apprenticeship would be that they should ignore what other people say to them and decide what is best for themselves. During college, I found myself wanting to learn in a more practical setting. There was a stigma against apprenticeships sometimes and I think people feel forced to go to university, but university doesn’t suit everyone. Sometimes you have to stop learning about something and get out there and do it to find out if it’s the right thing for you. I have no regrets not going to university.

How did you find the transition from studying at school/college to being in the workplace as an apprentice?

The transition was hard for me. I didn’t expect it to be easy but for the first two weeks at Howells I was thinking about quitting and going back to college. I didn’t think I could last – the pressure was different to anything I’d known previously. Four years later it appears I proved myself wrong and the pressure helps you become better at your job.

"During college, I found myself at a stage where I wanted to start learning in a more practical sense."

How have you found getting into a career in law? Has there been anything challenging, surprising, or rewarding about your journey that got you to where you are now?

Getting in to law has been great, Howells have always done everything they can to help me and to progress my career, so I owe them a lot of this. I feel I might have struggled if I had gone to university – I know a lot of people struggle to get in to law following university, so I have been pretty lucky. I think with law it is always a mixture of challenging surprising and rewarding moments, it’s hard to pick a few. Law always presents you ways in which you have to be creative to solve problems and no matter how long you’ve done it there is still things that surprise you and I think this is what makes it so interesting. Working in law, especially at Howells is rewarding because you get to help people in some of the most difficult times of their lives.

What are the next steps for your career? What are you hoping to progress on to?

I have a few exams left of my level 3 CILEX but I’m hoping to pass these and move onto level 6 next. My ultimate goal is to be a fully qualified solicitor.

How did you feel when you won Apprentice Student of the Year 16-18 in 2015? Did it come as a surprise to you? Has this award helped you in any way since winning?

It was certainly a surprise to find out. I didn’t know that you could win awards for this kind of thing. It certainly boosted my confidence that I’m doing things right and it certainly looks good on a CV.

What advice would you give to someone that is just about to start their Law Apprenticeship and they are nervous about their first day?

My advice would be that nerves are not necessarily a bad thing, they make you cautious which means you’ll take greater care in learning how to do things and slowly over time your confidence will keep growing. There are many times where you’ll probably doubt whether you can make it in law or if it’s worth it but if you put in the effort and keep doing your best then you will prove to yourself that you are capable of anything. Take every set back, failure, mistake etc. and turn it into motivation to constantly improve yourself. There is not success without failure.

"Take every set back, failure and mistake and turn it into motivation to constantly improve yourself. There is not success without failure."

Was there anything you were nervous about on your first day of your apprenticeship?

I was nervous about everything, I didn’t know if I would be able to do the job, if people would like me, I was nervous about failing. Looking back, I find it funny how nervous I was at that time. I didn’t know how brilliant everyone at Howells would be and how much they would help me develop. People would tell me all the time how much more confident I seemed and now when I get nervous I just have to take a moment to gather myself and then jump in and do my best.

Has your apprenticeship come to an end now, or when does it end? What’s in store for you next?

My apprenticeship has been at an end for a few years now but I am grateful for everything I learnt during my time as an apprentice. I’m hoping to complete my level 3 CILEX qualification and then move onto my level 6. My current goal is to become a solicitor, hopefully I make it and if I do I will need to decide what comes after that.


Finally, if you could change one thing about the law, what would it be?

There is good and bad in everything and it’s the same with the law – as much as you love it there are always things you wish you could change. I guess for me, the thing I would want to change the most is that sometimes the law can benefit those people in the wrong, rather than those who have been wronged. Sometimes people don’t end up getting the justice they seek and I wish there was something more that could be done for this.

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