1 February 2013
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25 March 2011
The traditional stereotypes associated with law, such as that most lawyers are white, middle-class males, is rapidly losing its value as firms embrace diversity schemes and reach out to students from a variety of social and ethnic backgrounds
The need to open up law to aspiring lawyers who might otherwise have slipped through the recruitment net is not a new one, but there are a number of schemes now available to help students challenge stereotypes and break into the profession.
Diversity schemes and awareness help the legal sector become more open, accepting and representative of society, creating balanced lawyers with different perspectives who can bring something fresh to the profession.
More diversity schemes and events are being created all the time, so it is worth applying for one if you fit the selection criteria. If you have ever thought your background does not fit with the idea of a ‘typical’ lawyer, think again. And if you feel you could benefit from a diversity scheme, we have listed just a few here.
Lawyer 2B Year 12 Careers Day
What is it? Lawyer 2B’s successful Year 12 careers conferences allow hundreds of students to learn more about a legal career. Now in its sixth year, last year’s event saw 250 students from 30 different state schools and colleges descend upon BPP Law School. Students can attend presentations, gain advice on law school applications and find out how the legal profession works. Top law firms, including Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Slaughter and May, have been involved.
Who can apply? Gifted & Talented Year 12 A-level students.
How do I apply? Students interested in law are chosen from various state schools in the London area, where they would be the first from their family to attend university.
CSET Summer School
What is it? The City Solicitors’ Educational Trust (CSET) runs week-long residential summer schools every year, with 100 places on offer for students from diverse backgrounds. The schools are held at Queen Mary University of London and provide skills training, team working and networking opportunities. Students get the chance to meet employees from top law firms as well as the opportunity to visit their offices, gaining a greater commercial awareness through workshops and classroom exercises.
Who can apply? Students in the first year of a law degree or the second year of a non-law degree who are interested in the law. Those from non-traditional universities or families with little history of higher education are given special consideration.
How do I apply? Online application and verbal reasoning test. If successful, applicants will be asked to complete a telephone interview. For more information go to www.cset.org.uk.
Pathways to Law
What is it? The £4m initiative was launched by the College of Law and Sutton Trust to support students from under-represented backgrounds through Years 12 and 13 to beyond university. The programme involves students attending lectures, debates, career sessions and e-mentoring (weekly contact with a mentor who is a law student at your given university) at one of the seven partner universities: Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Southampton, University College London, Warwick and the London School of Economics.
There are between five and seven sessions organised each year. In addition, students get the chance to do a placement with a law firm as well as attend a three-day residential conference in the summer, usually held at Warwick. The 400 students selected are expected to commit to the scheme over the two years during Years 12 and 13.
Who can apply? The scheme is open to state school students at the beginning of Year 12 who are interested in a legal career and have, or are predicted to achieve, mostly A*, A and B grades at GCSE. They will also be the first in their family to attend university. There are, on average, three applications per place.
How do I apply? Online at www.pathwaystolaw.org.
The Legal Gateway Scheme
What is it? The scheme offers various career development opportunities such as mentoring and workshops. There are two schemes: Today’s Children Tomorrow’s Lawyers (TCTL) and the Legal Launch Pad (LLP) . The TCTL, for students who are still of school age, involves taking part in the Black Lawyers Directory’s Great London Debate, as well as attending open days and a Careers Fair at Barclays.
The LLP, on the other hand, caters for between 50 and 55 university students and includes four days of training over nine months. It teaches negotiation skills, commercial awareness, application and interview skills. Students can also take part in work experience at a top law firm.
Who can apply? TCTL is for 14-17-year-olds from an ethnic minority and disadvantaged background who are interested in a career in law or want to learn more about the profession. LLP is aimed at university students; there is a better chance of getting onto the scheme if you are in your second or third year.
How do I apply? TCTL: schools targeted in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester. LLP: CV and online application at www.onlinebld.com/index.html.
Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London
What is it? SEO London provides summer internships with the top corporate law firms in London. In addition, students are given mentoring and individual training. An average of 80 per cent of students get placement offers after the scheme. Participating firms include Berwin Leighton Paisner, Linklaters, Macfarlanes and Simmons & Simmons.
Who can apply? The scheme is open to ethnic minority students with a minimum BBB at A-level and a 2:1 degree. Law students can apply in their penultimate or final year, and non-law students in their final year only. Students can also apply while completing the Legal Practice Course.
How do I apply? Online, including CV and covering letter, at www.seo-london.com/corporate-law-vacation-placement-scheme. Assessment includes a verbal reasoning test, competency-based interview and case study exercise.
The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF)
What is it? For Year 12 students, the SMF runs an ‘Aspiring Professionals’ programme that offers students a chance to be mentored for a year by someone senior in their chosen career profession. Students take part in workshops and talks covering advice on university applications. Students also have the opportunity to be considered for summer internships at top firms in the sector.
Who can apply? Year 12 students who received the Educational Maintenance Allowance (although this has now been abolished) or free school meals, with at least 5 GCSE A grades.
How do I apply? Online at www. socialmobility.org.uk.
Law Society Diversity Access Scheme
What is it? This programme offers graduates Legal Practice Course scholarships in addition to work experience opportunities and general career support. In 2012, there were 50 places.
Who can apply? To qualify for the scheme you must have had to overcome ‘exceptional obstacles’ to qualify as a solicitor. The Law Society website states: “Obstacles may be of a social or personal nature, relate to difficult family circumstances or to a disability that makes the goal of qualifying as a solicitor a particularly challenging one.” An example would be being in local authority care.
How do I apply? Online at www. lawsociety.org.uk/home.law.
Diversity initiatives at the bar
The bar has stepped up its efforts to widen access following a report prepared by Lord Neuberger, in which he set out a series of measures to give students from non-traditional backgrounds a better chance of breaking into the profession. The latest initiative saw Inner Temple, in partnership with 50 chambers, launch the Pegasus Access Scheme, aimed at offering university students a range of three to five-day mini-pupillages.
Meanwhile, for the past six years, the Bar Council has run a week of events for sixth-form students, aimed at promoting better access to the profession. Working with the SMF and 60 sets of chambers, the Bar Council gives students from throughout England & Wales an introduction to the bar through an annual week-long placement scheme.
The scheme includes a three-day placement in chambers, attending a session at a Crown Court, networking events, introductory talks and workshops, and lunch at the Inns of Court.
In 2011, a host of City law firms threw their weight behind the first profession-wide social mobility scheme to provide hundreds of work experience places for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Born out of Allen & Overy senior partner David Morley’s idea, ‘Prime’ now has more than 75 signatories, jumping up from just 23 in less than one year. The list of firms range from magic circle to regional practices, with a fair smattering of Scottish firms.
Each firm has pledged to offer 30 to 35 hours of contact time per individual, with a programme that informs students about opportunities within a law firm as well as developing their skills.
The most striking aspect of the programme is that each firm has to commit to at least half the number of places it currently offers in training contracts, with a target for the wider profession of 2,500 places by 2015. With approximately 4,900 training contracts awarded each year, this will certainly be a challenge.
In February, Lawyer 2B revealed that more than 70 per cent of Prime’s founding 23 firms had confirmed pilot work experience schemes for 2012, offering placements to almost 500 school pupils.
Moreover, it is understood that in total more than 700 students, aged between 14 and 18, are to take part in work placements at a number of the 75 committed firms this year.
For more details visit www.primecommitment.org