'My route into law': Stone King lawyer Danielle Francombe

There are various routes into the legal profession. Emily Ball, Apprentice Solicitor at Cambridge law firm Stone King, speaks to Associate Solicitor Danielle Francombe about her journey into law. 

Danielle, left, talks to apprentice Emily Ball about her legal career

Emily has worked in Stone King's Cambridge office for almost three years, providing administrative support before moving onto the apprenticeship scheme. The Solicitor Apprenticeship is a six-year route that prepares participants to take the new Solicitors Qualifying Exams and become a qualified solicitor.

Emily: What was your route to qualification?

Danielle: In terms of academics, I studied for a law degree over three years, and then undertook the one-year Legal Practice Course. I was lucky to obtain a training contract which followed on directly from my completion of the Legal Practice Course. I worked as a trainee solicitor for two years, before finally qualifying as a solicitor.

Since my qualification, there are so many more routes into law, and I think this is a great development, as it provides for a more diverse workforce.

Emily: What is your role at Stone King?

I am an Associate Solicitor in the Education Team.  I am also the professional support lawyer for the operational division of the Education Team, this means that I am responsible for the operational team’s know-how and precedents. 

I also sit on the Wellbeing Strategy Group at Stone King and I am the Wellbeing Lead for the Cambridge office. This is something that I am really proud of.

Emily: Is your work area more focused on educational organisations or individuals?

I work exclusively for educational organisations, this includes both state and independent schools.

Emily: As an Education Solicitor, what do you do on a day-to-day basis in the workplace?

The thing about working in the Education Sector is that every day is different, and that is what I love about it. On any given day, I can be asked to advise on a whole range of issues. For example, I may find myself reviewing an admissions policy in the morning, advising on the rights of a transgender student in the afternoon and then reviewing a parent contract as my final task of the day.

Emily: What is the area that most interests you?

This is a difficult question! If I had to pick one area, I’d say advising on issues relating to equality law. If I was allowed to pick two areas, I’d also say advising on and dealing with safeguarding queries. 

Emily: What skills does an Education Solicitor need?

Often the queries that I advise on have a whole range of issues tied up within them, and part of the fun is unpicking them. In order to be a successful Education Solicitor you need to have an ability to unpick complex fact patterns. You need to be a team player, as often the queries crossover into other areas of law, such as data protection, immigration or employment, and so you often need to call upon and work with solicitors in other teams in order to deliver the advice to the client. Finally, to succeed as an Education Lawyer, I think that you also need to be have a genuine interest in the Education Sector too.

More generally (as with Solicitors advising in other areas), an Education Solicitor needs to have excellent attention to detail, along with demonstrable communication, organisation and drafting skills.

Emily: Can you name a work highlight from this year?

 I really enjoy putting together and/or delivering training sessions for our clients. This year Stone King has hosted a full suite of webinars ranging from issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, through to focussed training for academy clerks and company secretaries. Excitingly, we are in the process of launching online virtual training for our clients. The admissions training product has been launched and we have a number of other products in the pipeline!

*Stone King is at Bateman House, Hills Road in Cambridge. You’ll find details of our webinars, training and events here

Danielle can be contacted here.

Ima\ge: Danielle, left, and Emily Ball

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