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Read Millie Beardsley’s apprenticeship journey so far and what led her to winning the Resilience award at the 2024 BBP Apprentice of the Year Awards. 

This year at the 2024 BPP Apprentice of the Year awards, I was shortlisted and won the Resilience award. This came as a huge shock and surprise!

My resilience journey began back in high school. I struggled socially and as a result suffered with my mental health which really impacted my ability to study and take exams. I ended up in hospital and studied for my GCSEs from my hospital bed. I remember my mum bringing me notebooks and coloured pens so I could make revision posters. Nevertheless, I took my exams and received 2 As, 5 Bs and 3 Cs. I knew I wanted to go on and study law, and I knew I wanted to a pursue a career in law. Therefore, I attended college studying law, psychology, and business studies. I knew this would be even more challenging than high school. Again, my mental health took a turn for the worse, and I had to sit in my own room for my A-Level exams due to having panic attacks, and severe anxiety. This led me to achieve BBC at A-Level that I wasn’t the most pleased about, but it enabled me to secure a place at Sheffield Hallam University whereby I continued my studies of law. This was an achievement in itself, as I was the first member of my family to go on to university.

I moved from my hometown of Castleford to a city I’d not really explored before. I met new friends, lived in halls, and I finally felt like I’d made it and I’d overcome the mental health struggles from my youth. Oh boy, was I wrong. University hit me like a steam train, and I felt way out of my depth. I didn’t have my family there to support me, but I continued to push through. I completed many exams, mock trials, dissertation and joined the trampolining club. This brought me out of my shell and made me more confident. My last year of university was tough, this was due to secluding myself to study, and not spending much time with friends. Many of my relationships broke down, and I was back in a rut once again. Again, I persevered and achieved a 2:1 in which I am super proud about.

Then came adult life, stepping into the working world. It took me many months to secure a job at a law firm due to the highly competitive nature of the legal industry. I interviewed for many firms, and finally secured a place at Irwin Mitchell in MOJ Fast Track. At this point, I was applying for the LPC. I successfully got a place at University of Sheffield, but I deferred my place due to not having the sufficient funds to support myself. My family couldn’t support me either, as my mum is a single parent with two other children. I couldn’t put that pressure on her. Therefore, I continued to work and save up money so I could fund the course myself. When my deferred placement came around, I still didn’t have the funds, so I declined my place. I was devastated as this was the next step in my legal career.

I continued to work at Irwin Mitchell and then COVID hit. I was sent home for ‘2 weeks’ which ended up becoming a few years. My mental health rapidly declined. I was isolated. My thoughts consumed me. I ended up being diagnosed with depression and put on medication to stabilise my moods. One of my closest friends also took their life during this time, and it was extremely difficult to come to terms with. I was then informed by Irwin’s that they were closing my department and transferring colleagues across to Minster Law. Many of my colleagues and friends left the business to go to other firms, some went on to complete the LPC, or had training contracts lined up, and the remainder stayed at Minster Law, including myself. At this point, I felt a bit lost.

I commenced working at Minster Law, and one of the days in which I attended the office, I saw an advertisement for the apprenticeship programme on the screens. As a fluke, I applied, and I didn’t think much of it. Why would Minster Law pick me? Well…I aced every part of the interview process, and my personality matched exactly what Minster was looking for. I was then offered the job, and finally felt like I found my place! I commenced the apprenticeship programme in September 2022, and I am due to qualify as a solicitor in May 2025. The other apprentices on the course are my friends for life, and I’m so glad I met them, and have the opportunity to work alongside them and qualify together! However, I did not comprehend how difficult it would be to balance full time work and studying for the SQEs.

During the process so far, I’ve had many ups and downs. My mental health deteriorated yet again at the beginning of the programme due to sheer amount of work I had to complete, and I couldn’t control my emotions. I was constantly upset, sad, angry, and fidgety which ultimately led to burn out within my first year. I failed one of my BPP exams and was offered the option to defer the apprenticeship until my emotions and mental health got back on track. Did I give up? No. Did I continue to fight for my place? Yes. I retook the exam and passed. I got in touch with a GP to finally sort my mental health out, and to my surprise, the GP explained that I could be autistic and have ADHD. This was music to my ears, there was a reason why everything seemed so difficult for such a long time; I’m just a little bit different, and that’s ok. I’ve since changed my medication, got back on track, and here we are today, a Resilience award winner!

My journey is not over yet. I am due to sit my SQE 1 in July 2024. On average, I do about 4-6 hours of revision 6 days a week in order to cover the specification. But I’ve learnt it’s important to balance my time, take regular breaks and remain positive! I now see my mental health as a superpower. I can hyperfocus for hours on end, I see every intricate detail on case files, and I’m someone who you can rely on to get the work done. If you set your mind to something, its achievable. There maybe a few tears along the way, but its 100% worth it.