Meet One of DCB Legal’s Apprentices, Beth Forster!

16th August 2021

Tell us about yourself…

When I left college in 2017 my plan was to go to university to study law. At the time, I worked at DCBL in accounts as a summer job, and I also had a job at an ice cream shop too! I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do after college until the operations director at DCBL told me to have a look at apprenticeships – I was actually offered an admin apprenticeship! So I decided not to go to uni. Since then we’ve moved offices and expanded, and although I finished the admin apprenticeship I still wanted to do law. Even though I was still considering university, I stayed with the Direct Group; I’ve had a few jobs here, I worked in accounts, then admin, then I moved to DCB Legal and worked there in admin. Working at DCB Legal is how I started the apprenticeship that I’m doing now as my colleague recommended it!

What is the apprenticeship that you’re doing?

I’m now in my 3rd year of doing a solicitors apprenticeship. It turns out that you don’t actually need a full law degree to become a solicitor, you just have to complete the end exams. I’m doing a degree within my apprenticeship through DCB Legal just to boost my career prospects at the end!

What does your apprenticeship entail?

A lot of reading! I didn’t realise at the beginning how much reading I’d be doing! So I have one day off from work a week to stay at home and focus on my apprenticeship, it’s mostly online through a portal so I study by myself. The portal tells me what I’ll be learning each week and what the weekly assessments are, and there are short tutorial videos. When I first started I’d be reading about 4 books or sections a week, now it’s about 11! Each week depends on how big the module is.

After the reading, there are multiple-choice tests, short sentence tests and 3 or 4 activities, such as a scenario and questions or tables and comparisons. These are just to reinforce what I’ve learnt from the reading. Finally, there are weekly submissions that are more like essays, and having the experience from DCB Legal definitely helps. I try to draft these essays but it can be difficult! I remember my 1st submission was a PowerPoint presentation on the difference between UK and EU law, and my latest one was a 1000 word essay!

There are 10 to 12 modules in a unit with mock tests around the 5th or 6th module. I can go into university to do these but I’ve actually only been in twice so far! A lot has had to change due to the pandemic so it’s more coursework based, but I prefer that and it means I can keep learning from my job as well. The final exam for the unit can be a question on anything. My last 2 were oral exams on Zoom – I actually had Covid on my first one!

There are also 3 summer schools during the year which are for developing practical skills, like drafting documents, legal research, advocacy.

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

I wanted to do law early on as I enjoyed it in college, but I wasn’t necessarily set on what I wanted to do. Even when I was offered the apprenticeship in admin I was still unsure! But this allowed me to work in admin for the Debt Recovery team as well as for High Court before moving over to admin in DCB Legal, which is where I found my passion and got more knowledge and experience of the industry. I started the apprenticeship as I already loved my job and it meant I could continue to learn and develop new skills that would actually help with the apprenticeship as well. I understand what I’m reading and learning about much easier, and I can put it into practice. Plus, doing the apprenticeship through DCB Legal means I’ll get my qualifications without the huge amount of debt that comes with a university degree!

What do you hope to achieve from doing the apprenticeship?

In the end – in 2025, it’s a 6 to 7-year course – I’ll hopefully have passed and will be a solicitor! There might be further opportunities to branch out as well and develop even further within DCB Legal.

How has DCB Legal supported you through your apprenticeship?

Being offered the apprenticeship in the first place was great, especially as I didn’t even know you could become a solicitor by doing an apprenticeship! Every month I have a catch-up to check my progress and to see if I need any more support from my colleagues, whether that’s books or just help in general. I also have a quarterly meeting with my supervisor to see if I have any questions about my reading or if there’s anything I need additional help with. It’s so much easier to be able to speak to someone face to face, especially within the industry, if I’ve got any questions or concerns. Plus, there are always people around me at work who I can go to for answers! Knowing I’ve got people to explain things is a relief. DCB Legal has also been hugely supportive in allowing me to have the day off during the week to focus on my apprenticeship.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about doing an apprenticeship?

Think about the reading first! There is a lot of it so you need to make sure you have time. I’d also say just do it, I can’t think of any negatives to it! You can further your education while still developing practical skills, you’ll progress yourself as well as your company. Learning the day to day responsibilities of the role while you’re still learning is also beneficial.

Now I’ve done 2 apprenticeships I feel like I have definitely made the right choice. I know it’s not the full university experience and that will suit some people better, but I prefer working on my own and at my own pace. There are a lot of different apprenticeships out there, even here at DCB Legal, and different ways of learning.

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