Legal vets join Speakers for Schools’ list of inspirational business leaders

Slaughter and May senior partner Chris Saul, three former magic circle senior partners and a Clifford Chance associate have joined a panel of inspirational speakers on the Speakers for Schools initiative founded by BBC business editor Robert Peston.

Speakers for Schools links luminaries from a diverse range of professions – from medicine and law through to cosmology and linguistics – with UK-wide state schools and sixth-form colleges.

Former Slaughters senior partner Tim Clark along with Saul, ex-Clifford Chance senior partner Stuart Popham, former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer senior partner Anthony Salz and Clifford Chance associate Alan Mak will deliver ­rousing speeches to young ­people across the country with the aim of inspiring a new generation of lawyers and businesspeople.

Other notable speakers taking part in the project include journalist and ­Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman, Shadow Home Secretary Ed Balls, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee Lord Coe, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and radio presenter and DJ Lauren Laverne.

Popham, who joined ­Clifford Chance in 1976 and moved through the ranks to become senior partner in 2003, has become vice-chairman of Emea banking at Citigroup as well as a non-executive director at Legal & General since leaving the firm in April.

Popham says it is vital that people pass on to future generations experiences such as those he has gained over a long career in the City.

“I think this is a great idea,” he says. “I have a strong belief that future joiners to the business world should be as best equipped with knowledge as possible and I hope to inspire a new generation of lawyers and businesspeople.”

Salz, who spent 30 years at Freshfields and is ­currently an executive vice-chairman at Rothschild, says that the legal profession needs to reach out to schoolchildren from every social background. The Speakers for Schools scheme, he believes, is an ideal way to do this.

“I think the legal profession needs to do all it can to diversify,” he continues. “It’s hugely important to raise aspirations from an early age and encourage young people to believe in ­themselves.”

Clark, Popham and Salz all had distinguished careers in law before embarking on numerous other pursuits. But it is not only veterans of the legal industry who can provide inspiration to schoolchildren across the country.

Clifford Chance’s Mak may still be an associate, but he has a raft of achievements under his belt. In addition to being a founder of the firm’s charitable-­giving arm, the Clifford Chance Foundation, he is involved with the Big Society Network and is a primary school governor and trustee of free school breakfast charity Magic Breakfast.

Mak told The Lawyer: “I’ve experienced a lot of social mobility in my own life, so it was very important to me that I help other young people get on in life too. I was the first person in my family to finish secondary schooling, the first to go to university and the first to get a professional job. Now I spend a lot of my free time helping other young people fulfil their potential.”

Speakers must give at least one talk a year at a secondary state school, with the initiative’s stated aim being to “open new perspectives, illuminate learning and increase young people’s motivation and aspirations”.

The project is being launched alongside ­’Inspiring the Future’, which aims to get 100,000 people to visit schools and colleges to speak about their careers and achievements.

“It’s very important for young professionals to contribute to their local communities and wider society,” stresses Mak. “As lawyers we have to speak up for our communities as well as our clients. Getting involved in a practical, impactful ­project likeSpeakers for Schools is a great way to turn that aspiration into reality.”