The Apprenticeship Scheme: thoughts from former Senior Partner Clare Hyland

11 November, 2021
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

by Rosie Harvey and Mia Hardiman 

As Cripps’ former Senior Partner, Clare Hyland, comes to the end of her career and begins her retirement, two of our Solicitor Apprentices, Rosie and Mia, took the opportunity to talk to Clare and reflect on her experiences.

  1. “How did you come into law? Where did you train and what did you specialize in?”

“I actually grew up wanting to be a vet and worked at a local vets as a Saturday job. However, I quickly discovered that I wasn’t very good at science and not a great fan of blood either! None of my family members were lawyers so law wasn’t my initial aspiration!

However, when I did my O-Levels (GCSEs now), I chose law as one of my subjects. My professor at the time encouraged me to concentrate on subjects that I enjoyed and advised that the legal profession had very many career options. She told me that whether I wanted to go into law or not was not crucial; it was a good discipline to learn generally. I did enjoy the law subject, received an A grade and used that as my stepping stone to continue law as an A-Level.

After getting my A-Level results, I had decided that I didn’t want to be a barrister but I liked the idea of a solicitor. I wanted a degree in law and it was the next logical stepping stone in my journey. I went on to study at Hull University. I chose Hull because, at the time, I was interested in maritime law and Hull offered a great course on this, which you could chose in your 3rd year. After taking the course, I found that maritime law wasn’t for me in the end…

In my final year, I applied for articles of clerkship and then did a year at law college. Following that, I received a training contract in Leeds at Hepworth and Chadwick and was one of 6 trainees. As usual, the training contract was 2 years long and I did 6-month rotations in corporate, litigation, commercial real estate and tax. My Principal on my first day told me that he “believed in sinking or swimming” – I learnt a lot from him as a mentor!

I qualified into real estate; I love how it is people-based and there is a transactional momentum to the work. After my time at H&C, I made the big decision on whether I wanted to work in London or at a more regional firm. I had several interviews and liked Cripps the best. Particularly, I was drawn to the fact that Cripps took the time and set aside funds to be spent on education (such as books and infrastructure) and career development. Cripps really value people’s individual careers and I wanted to move somewhere that would help me develop.

My journey via university was right for me at the time. However, there are plenty of reasons why going to university isn’t the right decision for everyone and an alternative option (like the apprenticeship) can be more appealing.”

  1. “What has been your greatest achievement that you are most proud of?”

“Professionally speaking, my election to become senior partner is my great achievement. Still to this day I am honored to have been elected and have thoroughly enjoyed the position.

On a more personal level, passing the Law Society Finals was a notable moment for me. I remember being so convinced that I was going to fail those exams… Ultimately, they were the gateway to rest of my legal career.”

  1. “What is the biggest change that you have seen in the legal profession?”

“There are two notable changes for me. In October 1984, the legal profession was given permission to advertise and since then they were able to sell their services in the public domain. This opened up the market massively and our advertising has become a crucial and significant element to our business. Ultimately, everything we do day-to-day is representing and advertising our business but with this change, came competition, a serious factor that all legal service providers had to consider.

The second key change is the use of technology. I remember sitting in litigation as an articled clerk and paginating bundles of paper by hand – it’s crazy to think how far we have come since then! Legal tech really is the future of the legal profession and enables us to provide so much more and work more effectively. However, always remember to keep the personal approach with our clients. Nothing will beat a meeting or a phone call with a real person. It’s all about relationships.”

  1. “What do you think is the best thing about the apprenticeship scheme?”

“To be honest, I don’t think there is one single best thing as there are so many. From an individual’s perspective, it provides an excellent alternative route into the legal industry and it diversifies the legal profession. It also gives people choices which I think is key.

From a business point of view, it allows the business to recruit a range of people with different abilities, interests, talents, personalities. Ultimately, our clients are all different so we need to be too. We can then all fit together and form a well-rounded group of people.

I think the apprenticeship scheme gives you the best of both worlds. You gain practical experience alongside academic studies, which go hand in hand.”

  1. “What is your one piece of advice for anyone starting off in their legal career?”

“Make the most of the training whilst you can. There aren’t many points in your career where you will be properly training 100% of the time. Have an enquiring mind too; never stop taking the opportunities to learn. I think that you get out, what you put in so be curious and don’t always take things at face value.

Secondly, always put yourself in the clients shoes and understand their worries. In doing that, you can build stronger client relationships and you can find solutions for clients more quickly and more easily. It allows you to predict future challenges and prepare in advance.”

We wish Clare the very best of luck in her retirement and thank her for sharing her knowledge with us.