3rd July 2023
3rd July 2023
BHP Law has launched a pilot initiative to open up career opportunities for young people after being inspired by one of its own apprentice solicitors.
Ellie Phillips, 21, presented the idea of launching a formal work experience programme to her employers at BHP Law after seeing how difficult it is to find work placements in the legal sector.
And the company, which has offices in Darlington, Stockton, Durham, Darlington, and Tynemouth, has now launched its own scheme for Year 12 and 13 students in County Durham.
Ellie, who is in her third year as one of five solicitor apprentices at BHP Law, said: “It’s really hard to get work experience in the legal sector, and I can understand from personal experience how frustrating that can be.
“I wanted to do something to help others, so I presented the idea to BHP Law, and they’ve been supportive right from the top of the business, trusting me to lead on it.”
The apprenticeship route for solicitors is relatively new and was first introduced locally in 2017 under the North East Solicitor Apprenticeship Scheme as a collaboration between Northumbria University, regional law firms, and other organisations with in-house legal teams.
It proved to be a success but, unfortunately, it was halted due to lockdown, when Ellie was part of the application process.
However, Ellie, along with Jack Collins, another applicant on the scheme, had the initiative to approach BHP Law directly. They were invited to meet Managing Partner, John Pratt, and persuaded him to go ahead with appointing them as apprentices.
“During my A-levels, I walked round Darlington, delivering letters to every law firm in the town in a bid to get a work experience placement, but some firms wouldn’t even accept the letter,” explained Ellie.
Ellie was able to gain some experience by volunteering for a year with Citizen’s Advice, before BHP Law gave her a break.
She also became a mentor with Step Into Law, and saw again how her mentee struggled to find work experience. “That spurred me on even more to want to help young people get a foothold in the profession,” she added.
BHP Law partner, Oluwapelumi Amanda Adeola, who is the company’s mentoring lead, said: “It’s important that people who want to work in the law are encouraged to consider the apprenticeship route because it provides really rounded training. It also reinforces the message that there is more than one route leading to the legal profession, and that diversity is very important.
“Ellie’s initiative in driving this programme forward is to be applauded. She’s seen the bigger picture in supporting the next generation of lawyers, and we’re proud to support her.”
BHP Law’s programme will provide two candidates with the opportunity to attend the Darlington office for a week, spending time with four teams in different areas of the law, and attend workshops.
If the pilot proves to be a success, the company will consider expanding the programme. The scheme is being promoted to County Durham colleges, and Ellie is also prepared to go into schools to give advice to pupils.