Is a solicitor apprenticeship a better route to a legal career than going to university? Before last week I knew nothing about apprenticeships, but the Young Professionals’ conference was a delightful experience. As I arrived at the QEII conference centre near the Houses of Parliament on a mild morning in October, I was shocked to see an enthusiastic queue stretching all the way back to Westminster tube. I was impressed with how the organisers created a welcoming environment to all the students at the conference, individually greeting every student. The conference was very diverse, with many people from different backgrounds all seeing themselves as future lawyers. Outside the main hall, law firms were promoting themselves through networking stands where students could ask questions and pick up freebies such as tote bags and pens with their logos.

We had many questions. The biggest was about the financial advantages. Who wouldn’t think about university debt when considering a law career, when you can begin an apprenticeship on £25,000 with no debt at all? The main message was how students should do an apprenticeship to forget about the costs. The law firms’ main focus was the inclusive environment they offer in order to stand out. For example, Osborne Clarke talked about its diversity and inclusion group in order to make everyone feel included. They were encouraging about applications. Everyone is eligible to get an apprenticeship so long as they are able to reach the required grades the firm requests.

I spoke to Saman, a second year apprentice who has been working in Osborne Clarke for two years, and she explained how her experience has been extremely positive and she is enjoying the journey of becoming a solicitor. She said: “The apprenticeship prepares you for becoming a solicitor as you have more experience than a university student.” Initially, the first four years is doing an LLB. Then there is training for six months on rotation.

I also had the opportunity to interview students, like myself, during networking to get a perspective from the younger generation. Their interests and speculations on becoming a solicitor were very intriguing. A group of young males from Edmonton stated: “People like us don’t usually get high jobs like law due to coming from an economically lower background, but that shouldn’t be the obstacle to achieving the end goal.”

Emma Patterson, who is a student from Cobham Free School, comes from South Africa and she wanted to see whether law in South Africa is different to law in the UK. She is very passionate about becoming a solicitor in the future and the programme helped her to get an insight into becoming a solicitor through an apprenticeship. Jennifer from Southgate School said: “Coming from a low economic background, I want to do a solicitor apprenticeship as this would pay you to work and the Government covers the cost of debt.”

Arushee from Townley School added that studying politics helped her develop an interest in getting into the law field. She also finds the political views and ideologies an aspect that can help her into becoming a barrister eventually. It was touching to see how many young people want a change for themselves and will fulfil their dreams regardless of what background they come from.

Later on in the morning the panel of speakers shared inspirational stories encouraging younger future lawyers like myself to do a solicitor apprenticeship. Olivia Sinfield, a solicitor apprentices partner champion from Osborne Clarke, highlighted that initially she was unsure “if someone like her could be a London lawyer with her type of background, school and experience’ as she was from Whitby and a granddaughter of a miner”.

The moral of the conference was the focus on how anyone can become a lawyer through a solicitor apprenticeship. An inspiring aspect was highlighted, reinforcing how becoming a solicitor isn’t just for people who come from privileged backgrounds.

Perhaps Holly Moore, a panellist who is a qualified solicitors in the brand protection team at ITV, summed it up by saying: “Dream big, work hard and you’ll get there.”