Imagine being offered a job with one of Yorkshire’s big six law firms, having accumulated no debt and five years of experience under your belt - all at the age of 23.
Well that is exactly what is happening right now to Bryony Russell.
The lawyer is the first graduate from Yorkshire law firm Gordons’ ground-breaking legal apprenticeship scheme. She is now officially qualified as a chartered legal executive employment lawyer, with her firm’s managing partner describing her future prospects as “potentially unlimited”.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post Ms Russell was clear on what the primary advantage of her having gone down the route of an apprenticeship had brought her.
“Hands on experience,” she said. “You are learning at college but also on a day-to-day basis. It meant when it came to a particular course module you were almost on a head start because you had lived it, you had heard the terminology and had seen it in practice.
“I am delighted to be the programme’s first graduate. It has been an amazing five years.”
Ms Russell, who is from Wakefield and attended Kettlethorpe High School in the city before studying for her A-Levels at Pontefract College, found out about the scheme after she was handed a flyer by her A-level law tutor a month prior to her exams.
Entry was determined by a rigorous selection process and involved 18-year-old school leavers training as chartered legal executive lawyers over five years through practical experience and academic study.
Gordons pays their salaries and course fees, meaning they have no student debt at the end of the process.
Ms Russell combined her on-the-job training, which involved full-time hours, along with a combination of distance learning and college courses.
Gordons apprentices are also trained to the maximum Level 6, which is the equivalent of an honours degree.
It is overseen and regulated by Cilex, the chartered institute for the legal sector, to ensure the high standards are met.
Gordons managing partner, Paul Ayre, who devised the scheme, said: “We’re proud of our apprenticeship programme and its momentous first graduation.
“We were the first law firm to introduce an apprenticeship scheme of this type and many in our sector have followed.
“We did it because we want our firm to be full of talented people with a great attitude. We don’t care where they start out in life or what school they went to. We wanted to find bright young people who work hard and that is exactly what we found with Bryony.
“She’s been excellent throughout her apprenticeship and, now that she is qualified, Bryony’s career progression at Gordons is potentially unlimited.”
As for her career goal, Ms Russell is continuing to set her sights high.
“Ideally my goal is to be partner,” she said.
“That is where I want to see myself; developing my own experience, my career and building my client network and progressing in the firm towards a partnership.”
The Gordons Apprentice Programme was set up to provide an alternative route into the profession for bright youngsters without needing to attend university.
The programme has since become a multiple award-winner and led to the firm being described as “leading the way on social mobility in the legal profession” by Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission chair, Alan Milburn, who said: “Bryony’s success is a great example to others. With their apprenticeship scheme, Gordons have led the way in opening the doors of the legal profession to all.”
Since starting their scheme, the firm has taken on 17 apprentices.
Last year a nationwide survey by careers advice company AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk, placed Gordons in the UK’s top 30 higher apprenticeship employers.