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Taking the apprentice route – A Career Conversation with Rachael McDonagh


Our latest ‘Career Conversation’ features Rachael McDonagh who recently became the first ever member of the HD team, and one of the first in the country, to qualify as a solicitor through the Solicitor Apprenticeship route.

Who or what first inspired you to pursue a career in law and how old were you?

I studied A-Level Law between the ages of 16-18. I soon realised it was a subject I really enjoyed which inspired me to pursue a career in law. I knew that I did not want to go to university and felt the new apprentice route was a much better fit for me.

Tell us about the Solicitor Apprenticeship route to qualifying and what makes it different to more established routes

The Solicitor Apprenticeship differs from the more traditional routes to qualification as it has allowed me to gain practical work experience while completing my law degree.

I personally enjoyed learning and being able to work within a supportive environment, developing new and practical skills from experienced peers. I believe this enabled me to grow and develop transferrable skills in the industry. Studying alongside working has not always been easy but it certainly has given me additional practical skills with the relevant theoretical knowledge.

I am very proud to say I am now a qualified solicitor without any student debt!

How did it feel knowing you were one of the first in the country to start a Solicitor Apprenticeship?

I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity and that I started the apprenticeship when this route was in its infancy. I have been able to provide feedback on my experiences and to hopefully make a difference to those that started the Solicitor Apprenticeship after me. I am very proud of my achievements. I feel that I have a head start in my legal career given that I already have developed knowledge, skills and experience in the work environment.

Why have you decided to specialise in Private Client law?

It’s a challenging and very client focused area of the law. I look forward to developing a rapport with clients and building trusted relationships. I enjoy supporting people with their affairs; the varied and diverse family dynamics and calmly guiding clients through what are often confusing and emotional times while acting with compassion, patience and discretion.

What advice would you give to others considering a legal apprenticeship?

I would recommend anyone considers undertaking a legal apprenticeship. It’s a great alternative to university as the experience and skills I have gained alongside my studies has provided an excellent foundation for my legal career. I feel there is a common misconception that the Solicitor Apprenticeship route is an easier route to qualification. It isn’t. It can be very challenging balancing both work and education; being in full time employment while studying. The apprenticeship requires you to be extremely determined, consistently motivated and organised.

How do you like to spend your time outside work?

While completing my Solicitor Qualifying Exams my passion for Irish Dancing had to take a back seat. It is something that I plan to continue with now that I have completed my studies. I qualified for the World Championships in Irish Dancing and enjoyed competing locally; nationally and internationally. I enjoy keeping active, walking and travelling.

 Interested in finding out more about a career in law? Our careers page has more details about the opportunities at Harrison Drury.


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