At Lawyer2B.com we take diversity very seriously. Admittedly, its quite easy for us because, if you havent already noticed, Im female, Asian and indeed disabled (or should that be physically challenged?).
Joking aside, we salute the firms that go that extra mile to help candidates from non-traditional backgrounds to break into the profession. But unfortunately, although firms harp on about how they want to encourage more applications from less privileged candidates, very few turn their words into actions.
Thankfully, Eversheds is bucking this trend. As we report this week, the national firm has radically overhauled its online application form to make it fairer for those who may have taken a slightly different route to get to the trainee application stage. The new system will give candidates a score based on both their academic achievements and work experience.
This is a sea change for the legal sector, where it isnt uncommon for an online application form to automatically reject an application because a candidate doesnt meet a firms minimum academic criteria. Its also better than ticking the extenuating circumstances box. Because not one graduate recruitment team Ive ever spoken to has ever listed attending an inner city comprehensive that failed its Ofsted inspection several times as an extenuating circumstance.
As I said in one of my newsletters in June, Im strongly opposed to firms extending their minimum academic criteria to A-level grades. Even if A-levels have been devalued and thats a proposition that hasnt been proven automatically rejecting an application just because the candidate doesnt have sufficient Ucas points is both arbitrary and unfair.
Its also impossible to test a candidates suitability for a trainee role on their degree classification. It is arguably easier to gain a 2:1 in some subjects than others. Similarly, is a 2:1 from Oxbridge worth more than a 2:1 from a newer university?
Eversheds new application form should address some of these issues. And its certainly more preferable than a firm offering someone a training contract simply because a partner likes them. I just hope more firms follow Eversheds lead.