News Business Leadership Law firms LSB to quiz all lawyers on parents’ education By The Lawyer 14 February 2011 00:00 17 December 2015 15:27 Legal Services Board to get tough on social mobility in profession Anonymous 14 February 2011 at 09:52 Maybe the better question for lawyers when looking at social mobility shouldn’t be about where their parents attended university but whether or not their parents attended university. Reply Link Middle class and proud of it 14 February 2011 at 11:02 Why should where your parents go to university have any bearing on how good you are as a lawyer? This is a ridiculous waste of time and effort by the LSB. Parental university choice is only one factor in a child’s education. It’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Reply Link Middle class and indifferent to it, actually 14 February 2011 at 11:47 @middleclassandproudof it I think you’ve missed the point of this initiative. As I understand it, this is a monitoring exercise rather than a prescriptive initiative which will scare the Daily Mail. I for one will be very interested in seeing whether all the diversity credentials of the big City firms will stand up under class scrutiny, especially the Magic Circle. I hope that the LSB will also be asking lawyers whether they were schooled in the state or independent sectors and how that plays out at Partner level. Reply Link Vercingetorix 14 February 2011 at 12:24 Presumably we will have the option of ticking a box that says “It’s none of your business”? Reply Link Anonymous 14 February 2011 at 12:30 My parents never went to university, neither did my older siblings but I did. This is all about class indication, encouraging those from lower class background to move up the social hierarchy. My question is whether this will actually help improve anything or whether it could be open to abuse? What about if firms refuse to take part? Will the LSB name and shame? Firms are doing a lot more to encourage social diversity, but a lot more needs to be done. This move, while admirable, is a drop in the ocean Reply Link Anon 14 February 2011 at 13:12 City law firms are full of very average (and frequently, not very nice) people . The number of truly ‘exceptional’ individuals in City firms is very low and in truth they often don’t do well as they make others feel threatened. The work of a City lawyer generally requires an IQ of no more than 110, and little or no creativity, originality or insight. Most of those very average City lawyers have close relatives who are lawyers, business owners, accountants etc. There should be a simple rule: you cannot become a City lawyer if any close relative fits into one of these categories. Such a rule will have zero impact on the output of the firms, but a drastic one on social mobility. Reply Link Helen 14 February 2011 at 13:23 I echo this: “Presumably we will have the option of ticking a box that says “It’s none of your business”?” Reply Link Elephant 14 February 2011 at 14:05 The one good thing about the current situation is that it concentrates a large amount of unpleasant people in one profession, thereby limiting the amount of contact that the rest of the population need have with them. Reply Link Vandelay 14 February 2011 at 15:18 This plan to improve “social diversity” appears to overlook the possibility that if both parents went to uni they might just have more able and intelligent children. It is therefore inevitable that those children will be over represented in the more academic professions, such as the law. The only way to reverse this would be to discriminate against those children on the grounds of who there parents were, rather judging them on merit. I thought that this sort of discrimination was precisely what we were trying to avoid Reply Link Richard 14 February 2011 at 15:29 How does this assist in monitoring social mobility today? Neither of my parents went to university but I am a white middle class male who went to public school and I now work in a top 10 firm. All it demonstrates is that my parents moved up the social ladder before I started school and long before anyone cared about whether law firms were sufficiently diverse. Reply Link Salamander 14 February 2011 at 16:40 Thick daddy-bought-me-a-pony types tend to cluster in City firms. Backward daddy-bought-me-a-pony types tend to cluster in PR, employment agencies and the ‘family firm’. Twas always so. Reply Link Karl Marx 14 February 2011 at 22:11 Who is paying for this communistic nonsense. I thought labour lost the election? Why is it anyone’s business what level of eduation my parents attained? Reply Link Anonymous 14 February 2011 at 22:36 We’re doing the same thing in truck driving. Every truck driver is to be asked whether their parents went to university, in an attempt to identify the imbalance we think has already crept into the profession. In truck driving we need to attract more people that do have university educated parents and to encourage them to take up a profession that doesn’t involve driving a desk all day. We’re hoping to really increase the social mobility of people from university educated families into challenging and useful professions (truck driving, plumbers, electricians etc.) they’ve perhaps never aspired to before. Glad to hear you lawyers are doing the same thing. Reply Link Rufus 15 February 2011 at 00:17 I intend to file the survey in the same round filing cabinet as I did that thing a few years back which asked if I was a traveller of Irish heritage. Reply Link All Engels 15 February 2011 at 10:39 What’s that braying and honking and spluttering? It’s the wonderful sound of the privileged classes trying to defend their privilege and pretending they’re in well-paid City jobs on merit alone. Keep the drawbridge up and don’t let any light in. Anything else would be ‘communistic’. Reply Link Anonymous 15 February 2011 at 10:56 I see this has attracted the attention of Big Brother Watch http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/home/2011/02/when-they-say-its-not-about-social-engineering-thats-exactly-when-its-about-social-engineering.html Reply Link Anonymous 15 February 2011 at 12:45 I, like several other posters, am the private school educated lawyer child of parents who didn’t attend school past the age of 15 – my parents worked extremely hard and sacrificed much to provide me and my siblings with the education and opportunities they didn’t have and couldn’t have had. Does a question about my schooling say anything about me, or everything about the generations preceding me? Reply Link Anon 15 February 2011 at 13:05 @ Anonymous | 15-Feb-2011 12:45 pm – Perhaps you should read the TITLE of the article before commenting. Reply Link Anonymous 15 February 2011 at 15:15 I don’t have a problem with answering the questions, but I don’t see how it help? My Mum was a nurse and went to nursing college and my Dad left school at 15 to set up what is now a successful business. I was privately educated, Russell Group Uni and Top 10 firm… does that mean I am socially mobile? No, my parents worked hard and I did too. Reply Link Bemused 15 February 2011 at 23:38 Both my parents are artists who didn’t go to university. I was the only one of my peers with this background (of 120 in the first year LLB intake at my university, which is one of the oldest universities in the world, 17 were from the same private school). It would be absolutely wrong to say that the fact that my parents didn’t go to university did not affect me adversely throughout my years of study and entering the profession thereafter. Not intellectually (I got a 2.1 Hons degree), but solely in terms of confidence. I felt like an outsider. I could assume nothing. I knew nothing about upper middle class networks. Most of my peers had connections that helped them get plum roles; I had to learn the hard way how to network, how to project confidence, and how to bluff. I had the capability, but not the tools. This research is hardly Marxist (what an absurd suggestion!) and nor is it social engineering; to whoever suggested that the children of parents who went to university are going to be more intelligent anyway, you should be ashamed of yourself (and I take personal offence). It will, I hope, give statistical legitimacy to what most of us already know: confident children of middle and upper middle class parents are vastly over-represented in the profession, to its deriment, and to the exclusion of equally talented and intelligent candiates from less privileged backgrounds. In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that I no longer work as a lawyer; I’m a senior manager with a US corporation. I now have all the confidence I need. Reply Link Anonymous 16 February 2011 at 09:41 It will be interesting to see how all these new “social mobility” champions react when, in 20 years time, their children are being put at a disadvantage simply because their parents worked hard, and had good jobs. “Oh it’s different for my little Johnny because his grandparents had crap jobs” I am yet to hear a good answer for what to do with the people who are bright, but are socially engineered out of good universities and good jobs simply because of their parents’ education. I am not one of these, for the record. Reply Link Tim Child 16 February 2011 at 12:34 Why does the graph for those called to the Bar in 2009 appear to show that Men and Women each represent over 50% of the intake? On a less picky note, it is interesting that there is a significantly greater % BME intake to the Bar than as Trainee Solicitors. Does anyone know why this should be? Reply Link Anonymous 16 February 2011 at 13:55 This type of questioning to lawyers will hopefully highlight the social barriers to entering into the profession and bring about opportuinites being created for students from working class backgrounds, or simply with no connection to the profession, to match those from more privileged backgrounds. with regard to the comment that these plans ‘[appear] to overlook the possiblity that if both parents went to uni they might just have more able and intelligent children’ is quite a ridculous comment and missing the point. Non-graduate parents may well be just as, if not more intelligent, than those of the graduate calibre but have not had the opportunity and acess. This over-represntation of the profession is precisely what is trying to be ammended!!! Reply Link Pol Potter 16 February 2011 at 14:19 The barrister/solicitor graphics are hardly comparable, which answers Tim Child’s question: you can be called to the Bar without any selection having been applied against you (other than entry to University) – the BVC providers are in it for the money, so the only obstacle there is willingness to take on a huge debt. If you pass the BVC, call to the Bar follows (but not of course the right to call yourself a barrister). A traineeship by contrast depends on overcoming the (currently substantial) further obstacle of having been selected by a firm for a training place. A valid comparison would have been pupillages/traineeships, but one can’t expect much rigour from the Pol Pots of the LSB. As Anon at 9.41 points out, the logical conclusion of the emoting behind this exercise is that if someone from a disadvantaged background makes it to the City, they thereby become a class enemy, and their children must be held back, but never mind, at least their grandchildren will then be entitled to victim status. This is not so much a social ladder as a see-saw. The claim that “It’s not about social engineering. You need to ask the questions to make sure you don’t inadvertently block access to the profession” won’t wash; how can ignorance of whether a candidate’s parents went to University lead an interviewer “inadvertently” to block that candidate’s access to the profession? Most interviewers will select on the basis of the candidate’s intrinsic merits, but since State schools have largely abandoned the concept of academic merit (ironically, precisely in order to follow the sort of misguided agenda now being pursued by the LSB), it’s pretty obvious that many of the best candidates will not have been to a State school. Reply Link Anonymous 17 February 2011 at 17:15 Perhaps the better approach would be to attempt to prevent privileged candidates cashing in on their parents’ contacts in the profession. Mummy and daddy going to oxbridge means a lot less than mummy and daddy went to oxbridge with half the board. Reply Link Jack Wilshire 18 February 2011 at 13:34 95% of the lawyers at an MC firm would not have got where they are had it not been for their parents. Mummy and Daddy = rich, Mummy and Daddy = buy good school, school + Mummy and Daddy money = good university, school + good university = MC training contract. Simple. Fact. Good grades at school and university are not earnt by MC lawyers, they are bought by Mummy and Daddy. Law is a natural step up for rich kids who can then go to work with the same people they went to school, university and Mummy and Daddy’s summer horse riding party with. Most of them will be going to Will and Kate’s wedding too I bet. Reply Link Anonymous 18 February 2011 at 16:05 I went to Oxbridge and am an associate at a top 10 firm. Neither of my parents went to university – my dad left school at 16 with few qualifications. But he worked hard to give me the opportunities he didn’t have – extremely hard – and he instilled the same work ethic in me. My sister and I were the first people in our family to go to university. I doubt anyone in my family had ever met a solicitor, let alone knew the board of any law firm. I am by no means in the minority in my department (or amongst my contemporaries at Oxbridge), many of whom are from a similar background. So you will forgive me for finding many of the assumptions about Oxbridge-educated solicitors at City firms irritating, inaccurate and patronising. Reply Link Youcanthandlethetruth 18 February 2011 at 20:33 @ Jack Wilshire | 18-Feb-2011 1:34 pm “Good grades at school and university are not earnt by MC lawyers, they are bought by Mummy and Daddy.” About time you grew up and stopped looking for excuses. You’re not the cleverest. It has little if nothing to do with your parents’ wealth or otherwise. Learn to embrace that. Reply Link Anon 21 February 2011 at 00:28 Slightly on a tangent but has anyone else from a “non-diverse” background (according to the various definitions firms use: education, finances, parental background, age, ethnicity, etc) found the recent rash of Diversity Access Schemes incredibly frustrating? – I do not have poor A-Level results, or come from a deprived area, and my parents’ finances are reasonably healthy due to their lifetimes of independent business.. but in the interests of positive discrimination, I am unable to apply within these reduced pools of candidates. Peers who are eligible to apply (and have done so) have agreed that beyond A-Levels it is the candidate that takes the reigns, not any background facts.. Reply Link Anonymous 23 February 2011 at 09:50 Anon – 0:28am above makes a good point. It’s very easy for people who just haven’t made the grade to start trying to blame everything and everyone but themselves for their failure. I am at a Russell Group university, not Oxbridge, and of the hundreds who do law here, all those who are bright, hard working and who have really put their minds to obtaining Vac Schemes, TCs etc have done so. Some are privately educated, some not. Some are very wealthy, others less so. The thing common to all is that they work hard without being reclusive and take part in extra-curricular activities etc. It’s about being a rounded person. What I find particularly repugnant is how it is somehow inexcusable to state the scientific fact that intelligence is hereditary so statistically well educated couples will have brighter kids, yet it is fine to suggest that simply because of a private education I have some how not worked for what I have achieved. I’m sick of state-educated kids somehow thinking their hard work is more valuable than mine. It always seems to be those state school kids who haven’t secured TCs/Vac Schemes/Pupillage etc : those who have know what it takes, and know it is not easier simply because you have been to a private school. Reply Link Anonymous 24 February 2011 at 18:10 Wouldn’t a better indicator of social mobility be whether the lawyer in question attended state / independent school? Seems a bit more immediate than what their parents got up to Reply Link Peregrine Mason 26 February 2011 at 01:23 As a former Lancashire lad who was brought up in a tiny three bed council house with my parents and five siblings, “bring back grammar schools”, I say. Neither of my parents went to uni, and I was the only child in my family who did. It was the 11-plus and grammar school that did it for me. My brothers and sisters all had to go to the new comprehensive school where they had to study with a bunch of disinterested and disruptive thickos. I ended up as a partner in a respected City firm so didn’t do so badly. 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