Social mobility has been all over the news this week. It all started with the story we broke on Monday (4 April) about a preliminary meeting held at Allen & Overy to discuss the issue.
Senior partners from some of the City’s top law firms met at the magic circle law firm last month (March) to discuss ways in which they can collaborate to help candidates from “non-traditional” backgrounds break into law including, for instance, by introducing work experience opportunities for Year 12 students (read more).
Meanwhile, on Tuesday (5 April) the Coalition Government unveiled its plans aimed at boosting social mobility and reducing child poverty including an announcement that informal internships would be banned in Whitehall.
But the plans soon came under attack with critics branding Deputy PM Nick Clegg as a “hypocrite” following revelations that his father helped him gain an internship at a bank thanks to his connections.
The thorny topic of gaining informal work experience through family friends is explored by one of our student bloggers. In “I think you know my father…” our blogger, who doesn’t want to be identified, quotes a graduate recruiter from the legal sector who claims they get endless requests from partners asking for a place for their son or daughter or indeed the off-spring of a client on a summer vacation scheme (read more).
I personally have very strong objections to this sort of behaviour because for as long as it prevails there is never going to be a level playing field. Saying that, there is arguably a strong case for those of you reading my latest rant to start developing your own network of contacts by attending as many law-related activities as possible. For instance, several students from a wide range of backgrounds have secured writing opportunities or even work experience at Lawyer 2B by speaking to me at careers events. Incidentally, for the avoidance of doubt these were secured purely on merit and not everyone who applies to me will be successful because as you can imagine I get quite a lot of approaches.
Granted, these are rare examples and are unlikely to work in the context of vacation schemes as you will still have to go through a firm’s formal application process but it will not do you any harm to take someone’s business card and follow-up with a “nice to meet you” email the next day. But obviously use some discretion and indeed common sense. Not everyone you meet wants to be contacted by students but you will generally get a good idea of who is open to dialogue. And remember there’s a massive difference between being a good networker and a pest.
So go forth and network because it isn’t just about who mummy and daddy know.