Magic circle moots joint social mobility strategy

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  • Senior managers in universities have meetings of this type also but what is often missing is ANYONE WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT! Perhaps I'm being unfair and that a few of the senior partners grew up in council housing, went to run down sate schools etc but if they did they will be unusual.

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  • That's exactly the point that always gets missed, Clive.
    I am 100% confident that the senior partners involved in this kind of thing are full to the brim with good intentions but simply do not have the right frame of reference to come up with workable solutions.
    It reminds me of the 'gentleman amateur' era of politics - well intentioned aristocrats leading the world inexorably toward catastrophe...

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  • I went to state school, state college and was funded through my university education more or less through the state.

    I always dreamed of becoming a solicitor as young child, teenager and even as young adult. But these opportunities were never presented to me. A reality check occurred where I had to reconsider my options. I am now working in sales.

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  • I went to a state school, state college and then a non-russell group university and achieved a training contract fairly recently. I would be more than happy to get involved in a scheme like this.

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  • We are having exactly the same debate within the Oxford College where I graduated. The college is known for the relatively high percentage of state school entrants; it is committed to continuing to maintaining this but it's really very difficult. Substantial efforts are made to reach out to children in state schools and to retain non-grade based methods of selection but this is being resisted by those in the University who are happy to fill the places with the childen of the paying middle class. So what hope do we have of creating a more diverse base for legal recruitment? Personally, I would be in favour of moving towards a non-graduate route into the solicitor's profession, akin to what used to be offered decades ago. Of course, reliance on GCSE and A'level grades would need to go but would the Magic Circle feel happy to recruit on this basis in order to ensure social mobility? I am sceptical.

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  • This says everything:

    "ways to encourage young people from non-traditional backgrounds to consider support roles ­within law firms"

    Why not encourage these people to be the lawyers / bankers / accountants of the future.

    I am sure it is well intentioned, but all of the above - I agree entirely. They have the wrong "frame of reference".

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  • All the above are very true - I went to a comprehensive, , ex-poly and managed to get a training contract, but it wasn't so much the grades that clinched it (obviously that got me through the door and into the interview), but working out ways for the interviewers to see that I was 'one of them', even though I didn't have the 'right' answers to some of the most innocuous questions.

    For example, I can't ski or ride a horse, my parents didn't go to university and have manual jobs, I could never afford to go travelling as no one gave me a lump sum and I always had summer jobs etc.

    It's difficult to explain as it is such a subtle thing, but I soon learnt that I had to come up with something (usually by diverting the topic slightly), otherwise all the perfectly normal, innocuous questions I would be asked by interviewers would result in me saying, no, I don't ski, no, my dad works in a factory, no, I haven't been lucky enough to go travelling.... which would mean the interview grinding to halt without me being able to positively demonstrate why I should get a training contract.

    There was nothing malicious about it, and they were just asking what they had clearly always asked in interviews, but unconsciously, these questions would have led a candidate like me to end up on the reject pile, when I was exactly what they were looking for to improve their diversity statistics.

    Once I could work round this, I got a few TC offers, but I think this is the most difficult aspect of social mobility to overcome, and which is more difficult to tackle than simply offering a few work shadowing placements to the local sink school. It almost requires an overhaul of interviewer's personal and often unconscious assumptions as to what makes a candidate a 'good fit'.

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  • It may be well-intentioned but how many of these senior partners from Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith, Linklaters and Slaughter and May became lawyers against the odds and "climbed socially"????

    The introduction of £9k per annum school fees will perpetuate the elitism and reduce the quality of legal services provided as it becomes more about how much money you have, rather than how gifted you are.

    I have done mentor work in inner-city schools and I feel that I have some (not much!) sway with the kids when I talk to them because I came from a similar background to them. I went to what I term a "normal" inner-city comprehensive and am an equity partner in a large provincial firm and I am the exception. I still think though that many of these kids see it as so far removed from them and so unobtainable.

    Console yourselves with this fellow socially disadvantaged...

    "Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds"

    To be honest, I am not convinced that it is the right thing to do to encourage them to come into a profession which is so blinkered and socially discriminatory. There are far more exciting and worthwhile things to be than be a lawyer in a "corporate firm".

    [*waits for accusations of "working class chip on your shoulder" from the socially advantaged]

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  • @anonymous at 12:37 - I think you're absolutely spot on. I don't think there is conscious exclusion of those from 'non-traditional' backgrounds, just a lack of awareness of the reality of how 80% of the population live, which then distorts how they should assess the ability of candidates.

    I went to a state comprehensive, did a year at an ex-poly doing a science degree, then moved to study law at a Russell group uni. I then had no problem getting a TC at my 1st choice firm in London, but if I hadn't made the decision to change courses (and, more importantly, institutions), there is no chance I ever would have been able to get the same TC. Clearly, if I had remained at the ex-poly I would still be the same person, with the same ability and potential, but many avenues would have been closed to me.

    In retrospect, I probably had the grades to go to Oxbridge (not to do law, admittedly), but I never even thought about applying, because no one from my school ever did. Despite getting the highest grades possible, not once did teachers at my school tell me or any other kids that there was a very clear hierarchy among Universities, based on reputations that have been formed over decades or even centuries. Instead, we were told to choose our uni courses based on the official teaching rating for the subject of our choice, which led me to my particular former poly. In those pre-internet days, with parents who did not attend university, this approach seemed reasonable.

    A partner at a law firm who attended a top or even middling public school is likely to have a world view shaped by their own experience. If you went to Westminster, where almost 50% of every school year go to Oxbridge, you will likely have the view that the smart kids from other schools do likewise. Westminster is, of course, an extreme example, but even if your own experience is that the brightest 10-20% of your contemporaries all went to Oxbridge, your view of those who attended new universities will inevitably have been coloured by personal experience, and the tacit assumption is that bright candidates do not go to ex-polytechnics.

    I have no idea how to tackle the lack of social mobility in the profession, but acknowledging that there is a serious problem is a necessary first step to finding a solution, and firms need to be congratulated for at least showing a willingness to make a difference.

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  • The work that the big law firms are doing is a terra incognita to most, if not all, of the ordinary school kids. Their perception of the law practice starts with the local high street lawyer (wills and conveyancing) and probably ends with knowledge of somebody having been bailed out by a duty solicitor at a police station. Ah, and some John Grisham-style court room movies. Leverage financing? Restructuring of securitised assets? Just the terminology is sufficient to convince them that they do not belong to that world and should aim elsewhere.
    Also, the presentation and debating skills. They are being worked on so systematically in the upper-class schools. In an ordinary comprehensive you must rely more or less on your natural raw talents and gut feelings. And this disparity clearly shows at selection times.

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