Alternative Routes to Becoming a Solicitor – With Amy Weir-Simmons & Maia Crockford – S4E3

In this episode of the Legally Speaking Podcast, host Robert Hanna is joined by two influential and high-achieving aspiring lawyers, Amy Weir-Simmons and Maia Crockford. They both also represent KC Partners as leading brand ambassadors.

Amy is a first class graduate from Royal Holloway and is currently studying for a Master’s degree in law. Alongside her role as Head Ambassador for KC Partners, she works as a Business Development Coordinator for Watson’s Daily, as Head of Design for Legally Supported and boasts 15,000 followers (across platforms) for her own Amy Does Law initiative.

Meanwhile, Maia is a solicitor apprentice at DAC Beechcroft, President of the BPP Bristol Network, Founder of the My Legal Career platform and Deputy Head Ambassador for KC Partners. On top of all this, she’s also an Ambassador for Not Going To Uni and a Mentor at GROW MENTORING! 

Topics discussed include: 

  • Their respective application experiences (Amy is doing a law conversion, and Maia went down the increasingly popular apprenticeship route)
  • Their thoughts on the SQE and its potential implications
  • The best free resources for aspiring legal professionals
  • How to boost your personal brand 
  • How to overcome law firm rejections


Rob Hanna (00:00):

Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Hanna. This week, I’m delighted to be joined by two very special guests, Amy Weir Simmons and Maia Crockford. Amy is a first-class liberal arts graduate from Royal Holloway, currently undertaking her master’s in law at the University of Law. Alongside her studies, Amy is a business development and social media coordinator or Watson’s Daily, head of design and communications for Legally Supported and runs her own very successful legal platform, Amy Does Law, and is also the head ambassador at KC Partners, our sister business and legal recruitment, where she leads the team and pioneers the creation of the Legal Brief, our KC newsletter. Maia is a solicitor apprentice at a top UK law firm alongside her work, she is president of the BPP University Bristol network, a mentor for GROW MENTORING, an ambassador for Not Going to Uni, runs her successful online legal platform, My Legal Career and is also deputy head ambassador for KC partners, where she is solely responsible for managing and creating content for TikTok. So a very, very warm welcome, Amy and Maia. How are you both?

Amy Weir-Simmons (01:11):

Hi Rob.

Maia Crockford (01:11):


Rob Hanna (01:11):

Okay. So before we dive into your amazing achievements and legal experiences to date, we do have our customary opening question on the podcast, which is on a scale of one to 10, 10 being very real. How real would you rate the reality series suits in terms of its reality, Maia, coming to you first?

Maia Crockford (01:38):

Sure, I think I’m actually going to give quite a high score here. Um, I think I’m going to go with a seven or an eight. It’s actually quite surprising. I think once you enter the legal profession as to how accurate suits can be, obviously it’s heavily dramatized.

Rob Hanna (01:48):

Okay. Good stuff. And Amy, what would you, what would you give it?

Amy Weir-Simmons (01:52):

Completely honest, Rob. I think I’m probably the only person you’ve had on here who has never seen suits

Rob Hanna (01:57):

You’re actually not. We’ve has quite a few quests. So with that in mind, you can give it a zero and we can move swiftly on.

Amy Weir-Simmons (01:57):


Rob Hanna (01:57):

Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a bit about your family backgrounds and upbringing. So Maia did you want to start first?

Maia Crockford (02:12):

Sure. Yes. I actually grew up in Swindon. Um, so I went to a state school. I, um, did my a levels. My dad is a project manager and my mum works in a school. So I don’t come from a legal background. None of my family were lawyers, so I am actually the first one to pursue law.

Rob Hanna (02:29):

Good stuff. Okay. And Amy, how about you?

Amy Weir-Simmons (02:31):

So I am born and raised in Suffolk, not too far from where ed Sheeran went to school. Um, I like to brag that I know exactly where the castle on the Hill is and I love going there for lunch picnic. Um, yeah, I was actually privately educated. I did A Levels in English drama and philosophy. Both my parents are kind of like in the business world, but not legal. So my mum runs a family business with my uncle and my father currenlty works in Abu Dhabi for the government of which I can say no more.

Rob Hanna (03:07):

Okay. So Maia, tell us more about how you got into the apprenticeship route and how the apprenticeship route works.

Maia Crockford (03:17):

Yeah, so I think in college, um, and ever since I wanted to pursue a career in law, the only route that I knew of was the traditional route, which consists of the three year, uh, legal degree, the one year LPC, and then the two year training contract. I actually came across legal apprenticeships, um, from a one-off email that I received from my law tutor. Um, I think it was actually the Dentons vacancy that was going, this was all the way back in 2017. And I read into the legal apprenticeship, you know, being completely brand new to it, and it just blew my mind. Um, the fact that there was an opportunity to obtain a law degree, to work in a law firm and gain real life experience as well as kind of having no student debt on a salary as well. Um, for me it was an absolute, no brainer. However, I found that I received little to no support from my college in terms of applying for apprenticeships. And I suppose that’s exactly where my drive to help others and to raise awareness about apprenticeships comes from. Um, so yes, it was just, just a one-off email. Um, I did my own independent research. I applied to a couple of different firms at the time. Legal apprenticeships were very, very limited. It was very limited vacancies. Um, but yes, everything worked out and, uh, I’m now here at DC Beachcroft.

Rob Hanna (04:28):

Okay. And in terms of the actual apprenticeship route in terms of the mechanics of it, can you tell us a little bit more about it?

Maia Crockford (04:36):

So there are two legal apprenticeships currently running. The first one is the level four paralegal apprenticeship. So this apprenticeship lasts for two years and at the end you obtain either a level three or a level four certificate in higher education legal services. And then second one is the level seven solicitor apprenticeship. Now this is either an additional five years on top of the two year level four paralegal apprenticeship. I think that’s actually being cut down to four years now, or you can go straight onto the level seven solicitor apprenticeship and it takes six years. Um, and from that, through both routes, you go to university one day a week, you work in a law firm for four days of the week. So 20% of the week is dedicated to study. Um, you obtain a law degree through the level seven solicitor apprenticeship. I think a majority of apprentices now will be sitting the SQE. There will be some form of seat rotation within the routes. And at the end you qualify as a solicitor. So full qualification upon completion of the apprenticeship, no need for the LPC, um, no need for an additional training contract. It’s kind of a, more of a straight through route if that makes sense.

Rob Hanna (05:42):

It certainly does. And thank you so much for sharing that. So Amy, over to you, did you always want to go down the lawyer route and what inspired you to do a non-lawyer degree in university?

Amy Weir-Simmons (05:52):

So being completely honest, I’ve never been that person who knows exactly where they want to be when they’re older. I’ve always kind of loved everything, um, and enjoyed like a really big range of like interest in studies. So it wasn’t actually until my final year of university that I had to start thinking about like the next steps and I can completely sympathize with lots of people in this position because it’s so difficult to make a decision about your future and the job market can be very, very daunting and sometimes you might not know where to go next. And that was definitely me, I think, in my third and final year. So what I did was, um, think about the kind of skills which I had gained from my non-law degree. And then I started looking at different industries and what kind of like a good fit might be. And during that time, I went to a law fair at my university where they spoke about like how you can convert a non-law degree into a law degree.

Amy Weir-Simmons (06:50):

Now I had never really like considered a little before that point. I alway thought law was like a bit boring and bland, but this kind of talk and then a subsequent networking event really, really like changed my opinion. And I started to realize that actually I aligned quite well with a career in law. So after that I applied to do a law conversion at the university of law, which is where I am currently. And I’m looking for a training contract in commercial law. So to put it simply, no, I didn’t know. I wanted to be a lawyer from de dots. It was a gradual kind of realization and I don’t necessarily regret doing a non law degree first because that has given me so many different skills and a different outlook to things. So I’m so grateful for that.

Rob Hanna (07:36):

Well, that leads onto my next question. You touched on it there. Do you think that non-law degree helps you stand out perhaps from other law students?

Amy Weir-Simmons (07:44):

Yeah, definitely. I think increasingly now law firms don’t want like the bog-standard, plain LLB and LPC graduate. Who’s only done law related work experience. Now I’m not taking that away from people who do fit that description because they still have a lot to offer. But I think law firms really want to stress nowadays their diversity and inclusion. And that’s on all levels and extends to people who do come from a law background like myself. And I think there are so many benefits to having a non-law degree. Like you can show you have interests outside of law. So I come from a literature related background, so I’ve always enjoyed analyzing complex theoretical ideas. Then you can draw upon a unique competencies gained from your non law degree. So I can break down and articulate complex ideas, which I can then do the same with clients in a law related kind of situation. And then I think STEM students and language students are now so in demand and I wouldn’t underestimate them coming into the market because I think they have a lot of the law firms nowadays.

Rob Hanna (08:46):

Yeah, no really good points. Thanks for sharing that Amy and Maia, switching it back to you. What do you think, uh, some of the advantages of going down the apprenticeship route instead of say necessarily going to university?

Maia Crockford (08:59):

Sure. I usually put them into three categories. Um, the benefits, so the first one and slightly, the more obvious one is the financial benefit. So the fact that I obtained a degree with absolutely no student debt, so all of my education has paid for all of my exams, both of the SQE exams. Um, absolutely everything’s paid for. I think that that is, you know, one of the biggest attractions of a legal apprenticeship. The other one in the financial bracket, being the salary that you obtain, you know, right from the very beginning of the legal apprenticeship and from day one coming into working within the employer, that salary will jump per year. It should do. Um, within each apprenticeship scheme within each firm, it’s very common that salaries jump per year with obviously the view to be on a NQ salary by the time I qualify. So by the end of the apprenticeship.

Maia Crockford (09:52):

So the second benefit of the apprenticeship route, and I think probably the most important benefit is the ability to gain real life experience within the legal sector. I think the experience that I have gained as an apprentice is absolutely second to none. Um, solely due to, you know, working in a law firm, um, almost on a full-time basis and also working around incredible lawyers. Um, as a junior, I’m able to do some incredible things. I’ve been to court, I’ve been to mediations. Um, I’ve been to client meetings and those are things that you don’t really get to experience unless you’re kind of within the workplace and something that perhaps, you know, people don’t experience until they obtained their training contract. Um, and I think having that real life experience, you know, there’s only so much you can kind of learn about the law academically. There is so much, um, practice of law that isn’t taught at university.

Maia Crockford (10:42):

And I think being able to pick that up and learn directly from actually applying your knowledge and from actually practicing the law is, is, uh, extremely valuable. The third one and one of the most prominent for me. And one of the most expected benefits that I obtained through the apprenticeship is the development of life skills and soft skills. Um, there are so many things that are learned just via osmosis and via being in the legal world and being in a law firm, being around lawyers, there’s so many soft skills. Um, you learn how to speak to clients. You learn how to grow your own confidence. You learn how to draft emails correctly. You learn how to operate case management systems. Um, you just learn so many skills, you know, you learn how to collaborate with others in order to, um, achieve the same goals. There is just so much that can be spoken about in terms of the things that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to develop or expect to grow on, but it just kind of comes naturally just through, as I said, being within the, being in a workplace, being an international firm and working around incredible lawyers and, and you know, role models are absolutely my role models.

Maia Crockford (11:54):

Some of these lawyers that I work with are the absolute best in their game. And it’s just such a pleasure to be able to work with them and to learn directly from these people. So, yes, I think probably the most prominent thing for me was the growth of my confidence and soft skills, something that I really didn’t expect, but that has shone through.

Rob Hanna (12:11):

Yeah, no, I completely agree with what you have to say there. And then just coming soon where people can actually find legal apprenticeships, where, where can they go?

Maia Crockford (12:21):

So there’s a number of different places. First of all, every firm will always advertise their vacancies on their website. So it’s kind of like training contract applications in that there’s a cycle. Um, vacancies usually come out at the beginning of the year with assessment centers, taking place around Easter to then start in September, October time. So always look on the firm websites. Um, secondly I think it’s a legal requirement for the government to advertise all apprenticeships on their website. So do have a look there and thirdly websites, like Not Going to Uni are brilliant obviously for not going to uni and for finding apprenticeships, um, to Get My First Job is also a really good, uh, apprenticeship vacancy website. Um, so just have a quick Google search, but, um, those three places are definitely the places in which you can find, um, vacancies

Rob Hanna (13:05):

Great stuff. Okay. So Amy, which are the most popular, non-law conversion providers? Give us some insights.

Amy Weir-Simmons (13:13):

So the more traditional ones, which are the most popular are the university of law and BPP. They offer a variety of different courses such as the GDL or the MA law, which is what I’m doing, which is basically a sister degree. Um, you study the same kind of topics as the GDL, but it’s at a elevated master’s level and you also have to do a dissertation. And then from there you can then go on with the same providers to do your LPC. So applications are generally open year round, depending on when you want to apply for. So if you want to apply for September 2021, those are already open and they kind of give you places on a rolling basis. You just need to fill out a personal statement and get a reference.

Rob Hanna (14:03):

Okay. We really do want to help as many people as possible as you both know on the Legally Speaking Podcast. So what are your favorite resources, Amy for learning more about non-law and non-university roots into the law?

Amy Weir-Simmons (14:17):

I think the are so many options nowadays. So I think websites such as and the lawyer portal, they have a lot of great articles and pages about the conversion route and getting into law from any backgrounds. Those are definitely ones to have a look at. Then if your university has any actual events you can attend about law, um and networking events. So you can actually speak to people and failing that, go on to LinkedIn and go to a random firm, filter it by background and degree and see if you can find someone who’s come from a place where you are currently and just speak to people. Because I think speaking to people is the best way of learning more about the process. And then equally you’ve got pages such as mine. Um, you can find me on Instagram at Amydoeslaw and other pages, which really speak about how to get into law from different backgrounds. Um, I think those add a lot of value as well.

Rob Hanna (15:15):

Yeah. And you, you touched on it nicely there because outside of both of your studies and work, you’re both doing excellent jobs in creating a personal brand for yourselves with, as you mentioned, Amydoeslaw and Maia WithmyLegalCareer. So Maia, what tips can you give our audience to help build their brands? So Maia first, then we’ll go to you, Amy,

Maia Crockford (15:36):

In terms of building your personal brand. I think first of all, it’s important to consider your future and exactly what you want from your future. Um, I think it’s important to consider the way in which you appear on your social platforms and the message you want to convey I suppose. Also on top of that, in terms of creating content, I think it’s important to show vulnerability and to kind of speak your truth. A lot of the times it’s very clear as to when people are being completely honest and when people are being completely themselves. In terms of personal branding for students and people who haven’t yet started their career, I would consider how you would like to be perceived by future employers. I think that’s something that’s quite important. Something I wish I was told, you know, when I was in school and in college and I think it’s something that could potentially alter or affect the way in which you are perceived by an employer and, um, you know, hiring and recruitment process later down the line.

Rob Hanna (16:31):

Yeah, no, well said. And Amy, what would you say to that?

Amy Weir-Simmons (16:36):

I would echo everything Maia’s just said, but maybe just adding to that, do what it says on the tin. It is a personal brand. So put yourself into it. I think there are quite a lot of law pages out there now, and I think that’s quite a lot of regurgitating other people’s contents. Whereas I think the most important thing is really just sharing what is personal to you and sharing personal experiences because no one else can steal that because it’s about you.

Rob Hanna (17:04):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Could not agree with what you’re saying more there. I think that true authenticity will just shine through you can’t compete with yourself because there’s only one of you. So yeah, well said. Okay. So Maia tell us more about Tik Tok. I see you’re very much a rising star on the platform. Do you think all future lawyers need to embrace creativity as part of their practice?

Maia Crockford (17:28):

Goodness. What a way to describe me? Um, I think Tik Tok is quite a difficult one currently because the audience reach is typically of quite a young age and in comparison to the legal industry, there’s a slight bit of friction there. I think Tik Tok has been incredible the legal industry in terms of allowing wider access to early careers and understanding how to actually become a lawyer. I think we’re yet to see actual law firms embracing Tik Tok and I think there is still a slight gray area in terms of how to convert professional information to Tik Tok and, you know, the type of audiences that people actually want to reach on Tik Tok. I think for the moment it’s doing great things for early careers. And as I said, raising awareness into how to actually become a lawyer, um, I think there still needs to be some work done in terms of how firms are actually presenting themselves on Tik Tok and whether or not they actually want to embrace it as a, as I touched upon. I imagine firms will figure that out in the near future and it will be interesting to see how that does does happen and what type of content, um, will be, will be needed.

Maia Crockford (18:33):

I can’t imagine Tik Tik being used for anything other than early careers and insight into how to become a lawyer. I, I find it difficult to see how legal advice or, you know, of course legal advice cannot be given over Tik Tok and that’s me, but I, it would be quite interesting to see how, you know, the everyday life of a lawyer and the everyday job of being a lawyer will be converted on to Tik Tok. Um, so yeah, I think it will be interesting to see how it pans out,

Rob Hanna (19:02):

Watch this space. We shall see. And you both keep yourselves incredibly busy. I have no idea how you fit it all in Amy, you’re involved in a number of platforms from KC partners to Watson’s Daily. Tell us a bit more about your roles with those.

Amy Weir-Simmons (19:19):

Yeah, of course. So like you said, I’m involved in quite a lot and I don’t know how I fit in into my daily schedule, but it happens. So with KC, I am currently helping to create the legal brief, which is a weekly newsletter currently going out on LinkedIn and by email to clients. Within this, a group of us write a couple of stories about what is in the news that week. So only this week I wrote about the WeWork SPAC deal, which is on the cards. And we also talk about the Legally Speaking Podcast and we also have a new section called lawyers of the future, where we invite people who are trying to break into the industry, um, to share a bit about themselves and why they want to go into law, perhaps also a motivational quote or a book, which has inspired them. And then we talk about the job opportunities, which KC is currently giving out. So we’re all about adding value. And I think The Legal Brief really does do that. So I’m very happy with the progress we’re making there. And then we’ve Watson’s Daily. So I’ve done a bit of everything with Peter. I help make his Instagram page look the way it is because before he met me, he had no idea how to make a graphic. I kind of design a lot of things and I help push the business in certain directions and come up with new ideas. So if you go on their website and read the newsletter, you’ll notice now that if you hover over a business name, it’ll give you a little summary of what that business does. So we’ve got a little company directory within the website, and that was my idea. So I love how I can really add value to that business as well. That’s just really another reason why I love going into law because it allows me to interact with business and really help them grow and develop and add value.

Rob Hanna (21:15):

Yeah. And you’re doing a fantastic job. So thanks for sharing that. Both of you do so much to build your brands and networks. So Maia, what are some of the benefits of getting involved in so many different initiatives that you do?

Maia Crockford (21:29):

I think probably the biggest one being the one you just touched upon is, is the network that you’re building. You know, it’s very important to grow relationships, whether that be client relationships, whether that be peer relationships. I think that’s something that being involved in so many different committees and groups and social circles, something that it’s absolutely allowed me to do is to grow my network. And I think that’s very important, especially as a junior lawyer. So yeah, I think probably the most important thing that comes out of that is, is the network.

Rob Hanna (21:56):

Yeah, couldn’t agree more. And I think the other question I really wanted to ask you both before we look to wrap up is around rejections and, you know, we all know it’s an incredibly tough industry, the law to break in and I’m sure you both have had rejections throughout your time in terms of embracing the law. So how do you overcome rejections and what advice would you give to others who may be experiencing rejection? So Maia come to you and then Amy to you.

Maia Crockford (22:24):

Sure. I think as you touched upon, you know, we’ve both experienced rejection, albeit you know, even being so early on in our career, um, and rejection is just something that’s absolutely inevitable. In terms of overcoming or kind of maneuvering rejection, I think it’s important to bear in mind the bigger picture. One rejection does absolutely not mean that you will not get the role that you’re applying for, or the role that you are after. Speaking from my own experience, I got rejected from two apprenticeships before I got this one and I can clearly see now that it worked out for the best. And I am so glad that I ended up where I did. And I’m so glad that I got rejected from the places that I did because things do eventually work out, work out for the best. And, um, it’s hard to see now, but I think in a couple of years, time, you will absolutely be able to look back and be grateful for the way that things played out. So I think just keep in mind the bigger picture and, um, don’t let it affect your motivation.

Rob Hanna (23:16):

Yeah. And Amy, yourself, what would you answer that?

Amy Weir-Simmons (23:18):

So I’ve only been in this field for like less than a year and already I have had so many rejections. I don’t think I could actually count them. One thing I really have learned is that rejection is redirection. So whenever you get a rejection, the most important thing really is to try and not take it personally, as hard as that may seem because these people are judging you from a couple of questions you answered and basically who you are on paper. And sometimes it can be very difficult to try and get across who you are from just a simple application. And that is just a skill, which you have to learn over time and it’s something which I’m still learning to do. So I still, haven’t got a training contract I’m still in that process and I’m just learning to celebrate the small successes when they do happen, because that means when you are rejected, you don’t take it as bad. And then when you do finally get there, it can be a much bigger reward.

Rob Hanna (24:19):

Yeah. You’ve got to enjoy the journey. I say to a lot of people, you know, you’re going to get knock backs along the way. There’s going to be ups and downs, but you know, treat those little bits of success that you have that you touch on there and really celebrate them. So it’ll spur and motivate you on. So yeah, that’s fantastic advice from both of you and I’m sure that has inspired a lot of our listeners around the world tuning in. And if people, do indeed want to follow or get in touch with both of you about anything we’ve discussed today, what is the best way for them to do that. Maia, firstly, feel free to shout out any web links or relevant social media, which would also share with this episode and then we’ll go to you Amy.

Maia Crockford (24:57):

Sure. So I suppose the most obvious one that’s already been touched upon is Instagram. I suppose probably my main platform, um, at MyLegalCareer. I’m also starting a YouTube, which I’m kind of nervous about. Um, but hopefully, hopefully that will go well. So, uh, if, if this comes up by the time there’s a video then, um, do you have a look on YouTube. Do have a search for My Legal Career. Um, the same username on Tik TOK, my legal career. Um, my LinkedIn is Maia Crockford if you fancy having a look through my profile and connecting with me there. Um, but yeah, I think that’s about it for me.

Rob Hanna (25:26):

Good stuff, Amy.

Amy Weir-Simmons (25:30):

So the most obvious place is Instagram for me. And my handle is at Amydoeslaw. And then, um, on LinkedIn, it’s Amy Weir-Simmons. Um, so yeah, feel free to connect me and leave me a message. Let me know you listened to the podcast.

Rob Hanna (25:44):

Great stuff. Well, thank you both so, so much Amy and Maia. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Probably just taking this long to get to this point, but I’m wishing you both lots of continued success with your legal careers, but from all of us, the being podcast over and out.

Maia Crockford (26:01):

Thank you so much!

Amy Weir-Simmons (26:02):

Cheers Rob.


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