News Law firms Proportion of lawyers educated at public school far outstrips national average By Margaret Taylor 15 November 2010 15:02 17 December 2015 15:46 Sign in or register to continue reading. It's FREE Sign in Email Password Keep me logged in Forgot your password? Not registered? It's FREE! Register now Register with The Lawyer Bobby Smith 15 November 2010 at 16:14 Of course this is regressive in that the ‘best’ talent that gains access to the law firms is based on what an individuals parents earn, not on how good or otherwise an indivudal is. The actual ‘best’ talent doesn’t get a look in and thus the whole of the legal profession is less talented than it could be. Lawyers must be so thankful that it is the bankers that have gained the bad publicity recently. Let us not forget, however, that behind every banking deal that exploded and lead to the huge losses now being paid for by the poor/disabled/children there is a law firm that put the documents together at £500 per hour. Reply Link Anonymous 15 November 2010 at 18:28 And, of course, if one looks at the proportion of Oxbridge graduates at Magic Circle firms/Chambers, the correlation is virtually absolute. Is that a bad thing? Can you blame the top firms for only picking the best talent? Reply Link Education, education and education! 15 November 2010 at 19:44 I went to a state school and was fortunate enough to attend a university which traditionally skews towards private school applicants. I had a shock at how much more of a sophisticated approach private school students had towards learning compared to me. By enlarge, state schools are second rate in my view. However, whilst the private school students clearly had a “head start”, I soon raised my game and ended up gaining a strong degree classification. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s fair to pre-judge an individual based on their secondary school – if somebody has achieved a top grade at an elite university then that’s all that should really count. The mode of secondary education is irrelevant and is merely indicative of hereditary wealth. Reply Link Anonymous 16 November 2010 at 11:23 The world has gone mad. Has it not ocurred to anyone that 11 year old children don’t get much say in what type of school they go to? There are many talented people in the state system with wealthy parents – when people start realising life is about choices and people can make their own choices, society will benefit. Reply Link Anonymous 16 November 2010 at 12:35 I am a senior partner and I have never selected someone for a job because they did, or did not, attend a “posh” school. My criteria has always been to select the best candidate and their school has never come into it – simple as that. And yes, I was privately educated … Reply Link Nick 16 November 2010 at 13:50 The average A Level grades at leading private schools are well over three A’s. A pupil that does not get three A’s at those schools is – barring some illness or personal tragedy – dim. The average A level grades at many state schools are less than three C’ (and many pupils will have dropped out after GCSE’s). Equally, one does not have to be particularly exceptional to get into Oxbridge. Of course there are exceptional people there, but there are also many students there who are really rather average, and law firms in particular are full of them. They are not stupid, but they could have an IQ as low as 115 and be very far from Newtonian. Life isn’t fair. It never has been and never will be. Outcomes in life are massively dependent on circumstances and luck. To deny this fact is despicable. Reply Link Vercingetorix 16 November 2010 at 13:59 Of course the same will also be true of the medical profession, the accounting profession, FTSE 100 chief execs etc. ‘Progressive’ education policies have destroyed English state education and now they are intent on destroying it in Scotland and Northern Ireland too. The future does not belong to those who see the world the way Tony Crosland did. It belongs to millions of Indian, Chinese and Koreans who learn their 3 R’s in education systems that impose discipline, competition and academic values. The bankrupt British left can moan and whinge all they like about public shcoolboys, but they are nothing compared to the tsunami that has been unleashed by globalisation. Reply Link Brioche 16 November 2010 at 16:29 “By enlarge, state schools are second rate in my view.” Oh the IRONY. Nonsense. Private or state, it makes no difference. Perhaps (perhaps) the privatedly educated are more confident, but that’s probably largely down to their parents. At university I think state school pupils had a distinct advantage over privately educated peers, who were used to being spoon fed information by mater/nanny/teacher/expensive private tutor. State school pupils should stop worrying and just be glad their parents didn’t blow 5 figures on what they could have got for free. Reply Link Anonymous 16 November 2010 at 16:41 It’s simple. On the whole, private school candidates are better than most of their state school counterparts(sweeping statement, because of course we all know the foppish, plum in throat moron who got a job in the city to prove the exception to the rule). However, the point stands. Why should firms be the ones to suffer by socially engineering the industry to be more open by appointing less talented candidates? Look to the standard of state education, not the firms. Reply Link Anonymous 16 November 2010 at 16:48 Brioche – having studied in both throughout my secondary education, I can tell you state education is way off the mark. Don’t just look at the one or two candidates per year that get 4 As at A-level. Look at the thousands who don’t make 5 Cs at GCSE. As opposed to private schools with a 70+% A rate at A-level across all students. And coupled with that, the things you learn outside of the classroom are worlds apart. I can see the chip on your shoulder from here and no doubt a smouldering defence of the state system will follow. Reply Link City Gent 16 November 2010 at 17:12 Of course the top firms will prefer public school chaps. The firms have an image to present, and these chaps are well-mannered, speak properly, and know how to hold their knife and fork correctly. The last thing we want is for our clients to be confronted by some oik with a rough, working-class accent who could easily be confused with our window-cleaner! Reply Link Education, education and education! 16 November 2010 at 21:25 Re French Bread, If we’re talking about spoon feeding I’ll give you a fine example. A history teacher in my state school used to get pupils to memorise model answers he had pre-written on the board. On the day of the exam he’d go to each and every pupil in the examination hall, after the clock had started, ensuring that they understood the questions asked. Why did he do this? Pressure to beat government targets and maintain funding levels. A private school class room and a state school class room are incomparable. You cannot credibly sit there and imply that a pupil in a class room where some semi-literate chav scum bag throws rubbers at the state-salaried teacher receives just as good an education as a pupil in a class room with well drilled, ambitious individuals led by a more incentivised teacher. Whilst I’m not doubting that some state schools can match the private schools, BY ENLARGE, state schools are less fertile academic environments. Where’s the irony? Reply Link Anonymous 16 November 2010 at 23:49 It is artificial to classify people according to their schooling/education. Private schools and Oxbridge are diverse these days – I went to private school and had a bursary – why should I be discriminated against? You take pot luck as your parents choose your schooling. Similarly over 50% of Oxbridge people are state educated high achievers who have worked hard and deserve to be taken on by firms. Reply Link Anonymous 17 November 2010 at 13:02 I saw this article and thought “good”. I know I’ll get attacked for this – but if public schools really do provide the best education then it’s good to have lots of the best people in this profession. If you feel that it doesn’t provide the best education then what’s the issue? A hatred of those who went to public school seems to be a socially acceptable prejudice. I hope that like bit like racism in the 1970s and homophobia was in the 1980s, it gradually becomes unacceptable. … that last bit should add oil to the flames! Reply Link Tom Brine 17 November 2010 at 14:30 As the senior partner of a leading law firm, I do not care whether a candidate was educated at a public school or a state school; what interests me far more is their proficiency as a Fives player. Reply Link Anonymous 17 November 2010 at 14:34 The proportion of lawyers educated at public schools exceeds national average. The proportion of lawyers from an ethnic minority background exceeds national average. Your point being? Reply Link Anonymous 17 November 2010 at 15:30 @Education, education and education! The phrase is “by and large”, not “by enlarge”. That’s the irony. You are criticising others’ education, yet your own command of idiomatic English is shaky. Reply Link Anony-mouse 17 November 2010 at 15:49 Oh you must all stop saying BY ENLARGE! Reply Link Scep Tick 17 November 2010 at 15:53 “Similarly over 50% of Oxbridge people are state educated high achievers who have worked hard and deserve to be taken on by firms.” Yes. The point seems to be that it’s those people who are NOT being taken on. Or, if they ARE taken on, are not allowed to get on on merit. 71% of MC partners privately educated? Even assuming every MC partner is Oxbridge, you’d expect more than half of MC partners to be state-educated… Reply Link Brioche 17 November 2010 at 16:14 Stop saying “by enlarge” you hmong! Reply Link Anonymous 17 November 2010 at 18:07 And it has come to this… I take huge offence to the so called “City Gent” who labels those without a private school background as “oiks with accents”. That level of ignorance and arrogance it was what’s drives those who, despite being private schooled, will remain mediocre at best. A “gent” you are not kind sir. The moment that employers recognise ability and true potential (as a result of private school or otherwise) is when all of this nonsense will fall away. Some do, the short sighted firms do not. Look to a progressive firm if the “where did you school?” chat does not sit well with you. Regards, A lawyer with a top form who attended a state school and (god forbid) has an accent. Reply Link Rational approach 17 November 2010 at 23:52 When I’m recruiting, the school some-one attended doesn’t play a significant part – but it is taken into account. I can list a number of reasons why recruiters would prefer someone who went to a private school: 1 The learning and disciplinary environment is usually by far better than most state schools. It gives me more confidence in that I am employing someone who is taking the job seriously. 2 A large proportion – not all, but many – privately educated people do perform better academically and although I know that many are simply spoonfed information, again it gives confidence to an employer. 3 People who attended private schools are more likely to be civilised in their approach towards colleagues and clients. Don’t get me wrong, it really depends on the person I am interviewing but, in general, I am more likely making a safer choice by choosing the private school kid if I both applicants have more or less the same CVs. Reply Link EC4 18 November 2010 at 04:49 @ education, education, education! The irony, you moron, is that it’s “by and large”, not “by enlarge”. God help us Reply Link Bertie Wooster 18 November 2010 at 11:41 To Anonymous | 17-Nov-2010 6:07 pm: You describe yourself as a lawyer with a top ‘form’ and earlier you state that ‘ That level of ignorance and arrogance it was what’s drives those’ etc. You are hardly a poster boy for state school pupils. Reply Link Anonymous 18 November 2010 at 13:59 To Bertie Wooster: A minor typo, my friend, happens to the best of us. Poster woman I may not be, however, this discussion is littered with ignorance and arrogance and if you cannot see that – then you are more foolish than I. Those who take such views, public or privately schooled, will yes, remain at best mediocre – true statement. Reply Link UGstudent 18 November 2010 at 14:49 I am a state (comprehensive) educated student who is now at Cambridge. I am not surprised at the percentages as the education others recieved at fee-paying schools was undeniably superior, not just academically but also socially. If I was recruiting and I had 2 identically qualified applicants I would select the ex-public schoolboy as they would likely be more polite and more able to relate maturely to clients. Reply Link Anonymous 18 November 2010 at 15:16 I don’t really get the point. Why does anyone care about any of this? Reply Link Gary 18 November 2010 at 16:56 Well, I shell out £10k a year for my daughter to go to public school, so it had damn well better give her an edge. Reply Link Anonymous 18 November 2010 at 17:02 @UGstudent Assuming for one second your post is not a joke – I would expect that the vast majority of law firm clients are also among the 98% from state school, so why would they be able to relate better to the 2% from private school? That is the point – the profession is unrepresentative of the population. Reply Link Gary 18 November 2010 at 17:22 @ Anon 5.02 Is there any evidence for that whatsoever? Do you think that only 2% of Private Client clients are from Public School, how about Commercial? Shipping? Media? Tax? For that matter, I don’t see why a client would want their solicitor to be cut from the same cloth as they are – I would assume that clients would want the most able. Some big cheese, born into old money and having had tutors and read Fine Art at the Sorbonne, isn’t going to appoint his solicitor from the school alumni when he get’s a divorce – he’ll look for the sharpest tool in the shed, no matter where (s)he’s from. Similarly, some unemployed, uneducated glue-sniffer from Scunthorpe (sorry Scunthorpe) is hardly going to want his solicitor with the same background if he goes on trial for murder. “Why did you become a criminal?” “My school was rubbish. Didn’t learn a thing.” “Your solicitor sat next to you for three years.” Reply Link Jboy 18 November 2010 at 18:07 What do you all mean by enlarge. Make bigger? Reply Link Education, education and education! 18 November 2010 at 20:22 So I fluffed an idiom, sue me. I note this academic did also: http://www.joplink.net/prev/200311/01.html Personally I prefer by enlarge. Shorter too. Oh well, I guess my A in A-level English was a fluke. Reply Link Anonymous 19 November 2010 at 09:57 @Gary Evidence is in the article. 85% of lawyers attended state school, so seeing as the pool of clients is made up of sectors covering the whole of the rest of the population, the percentage of clients attending state school is bound to be larger. On the client relationship issue, at the top level clients assume excellent technical knowledge when they’re paying that much, so the differentiating factors often include how well you fit with their team and organisation, which is influenced by background. Reply Link Anonymous 19 November 2010 at 17:09 What a load of crap I have read in the comments on this thread. Private school educated people do not make the best lawyers. Good lawyering is not about the way one holds a knife and fork if only it was that simple an equation. Social skills are not the sole preserve of the privately educated either what a firghtening thought that so many hold these views. I would never consider judging a new candidate based primariliy on the cost of their education, its a lot more complicated than that, sorry to burst the bubble of everybody out there who thinks that paying through the nose for their child’s education will guarantee them success in life above nad beyond that of their peers sure it might make some doors open more easily and give them a headstart in that respect (as the response to this article proves) but if they are useless they are useless and if a non public school person is better then it is them who will shine. Reply Link Gary 20 November 2010 at 15:36 These statistics are just dumb. Any kind of discrepancy does not have to equate to some kind of social mismatch. This belief is surely the product of a decade of the Labour Party, and talent show Britain. “You can be anything you want, and if you don’t make it – it’s because someone is discriminating against you.” All that seems to be important is desire and willpower – talent and ability do not come into it. What percentage of pest controllers went to public school? Let’s say 1%. Well, 2% of the population went to public school. Is pest control therefore a grossly unrepresentative sector? The problem of comprehensive schools is less one of education and more of mentality. Many comprehensives are packed with teachers that are wet blanket lefties at best and raving militant trots at worst. I went to a typical London secondary school where the teachers as a unit did not want to see pupils succeed if their future careers were politically unpalatable to them. Reply Link Anonymous 22 November 2010 at 14:00 I am dismayed at the comments made in response to this article.Some are thoughtless,some prejudiced and some just rude.I am a partner in a major City law firm.I also went to a state comprehensive school and had what I would describe as a working class up-bringing. When I joined the profession significant class prejudice existed and this often materialised in comments about the type of school I went to.Not much fun I can assure you and anyone who thinks differently I suspect has never been on the receiving end of such comments.Luckily I am thick skinned.Things have got considerably better but the real issues underlying the raw statistics are equality of opportunity and social mobility. I want a society where the opportunities to enter a profession such as the law are open to as wide a selection of that society as possible within practical limits.I want to see children from poorer backgrounds being given equal education opportunities to children from more comfortable backgrounds.I am not so naive as to believe that ‘birth advantages’ can ever be completely removed but the society I feel most comfortably in is one which does its best to off-set or compensate “birth disadvantages” and the most obvious way of doing that is the education system. In Britain the gap in attainment between those educated in the public system compared to those in the private system is very big. We appear to have more of an issue in this area than other countries.Whilst not perfect and subject to some caution in interpretation the report published by the Sutton Trust compiled by Professor Alan Smithers of Liverpool University’s Centre for Education and Employment which used the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) findings confirmed that Britain had the widest attainment gap of the nations surveyed. We have to address this attainment gap if we wish to see the make up of the profession more broadly match the make up of the society which it serves. Reply Link Chris A 22 November 2010 at 17:46 I’m sorry but I think this is a case of being blinded by stats. 15% of lawyers went to public schools. In order to “blame” law firms for elitism (rather than pointing the finger at universities), shouldn’t that figure be compared to the percentage of law graduates who were schooled public or otherwise rather than the general population? Perhaps the numbers are still damning, but a 5 minute LinkedIn survey won’t do; a more detailed study is required. I manage an office of an international law firm and I don’t care where you went to school. In fact, being an Australian, I can’t tell the difference. And, happily, I can’t pick your geographic and socio-economic background down to the square mile and tax bracket from your accent. But if you’re a Pom and you want a job. you better hope we win the Ashes. Reply Link Anonymous 24 November 2010 at 15:46 “By enlarge, state schools are second rate in my view.” By enlarge, they are. Don’t just look at the league tables look at the finished product. I’m sorry. Life is not fair. You can socially engineer a difference but you will not end up with the best people. The best people are produced through a fantastic natural ability coupled with a fantastic education. Take away the emotion, now answer the question “Are state schools fantastic?” Reply Link Anymouse 25 November 2010 at 14:59 I went to a small private primary, followed by a state grammar for secondary school, then Oxbridge. What a headache my educational background must be for @ Rational Approach. Do let me know where you believe I would fall on your scale of civility, educational ability and discipline, won’t you? Plenty of the state sector is in an absolute shambles but might I suggest that a candidate who has made it so far as to gain a good degree from a good university deserves your consideration as much as, if not more than, a similar candidate who has been through the private system? I’d imagine it’s far more productive for firms to assess where a candidate is capable of going than obsessing over where they’ve been. Reply Link Ex-CC 25 November 2010 at 15:31 No, dear old “by enlarge”, your A-grade in A-level English was (probably) not a fluke. It more likely resulted from 13 years of Labour government sponsored “dumbing down” of A-level grades, something that the best private schools have been doing their best to work their way around for a while now. Employers (if they have any sense) choose the best qualified person for the job that they can. Of those who are the best qualifed in law (as in medicine etc), a disproportionately high number were educated at private schools. In practice, this apparently amounts to about 15% – not 85%. Big deal! Reply Link Tim 25 November 2010 at 16:22 Comprehensive educated individuals don’t, generally, fit into City law firms. Their faces don’t fit because they have not been institutionalised or conditioned in one of the top schools. It has nothing to do with intellect or legal ability, it is to do with the way individuals speak, carry themselves etc the soft social skills. Reply Link Anonymous 26 November 2010 at 17:42 There are so many factors that influence the ‘ability’ of an individual to enter the legal profession. Every step of the way along the route to becoming a lawyer is competitive – competition for the top universities, competition for the top law schools, huge competition just to get the foot in the door as a trainee, or even a paralegal, and then an even higher level of competition when it comes to post-qualificiation and beyond, particularly in these times. Looking objectively, those who attended private schools are most probably given the most encouraging start to make each step along the treadmill required to ‘make it’. Whatever arguments may be brought up, individuals at private schools are generally more encouraged to do well academically, and will compete with their peers to do so – as opposed to the frequent situation I have seen in state schools where it is in fact looked down upon to do well, and will often lead to bullying. Private schools are also more likely to provide more opportunities for individuals to practice and learn the skill sets required in a profession such as the law. Those who remain strong and make it through the state school system down the path to becoming a lawyer, probably end up better equipped than those who went to private schools, because their fight was probably all the harder at the start. The fact remains however, there are more individuals going on to higher education to study for professions such as the law, from private school backgrounds. If there is a higher proportion going on to do so, surely it therefore makes sense that there are a higher proportion of lawyers from a private school background who end up getting there in the end? Reply Link Education, education and education! 27 November 2010 at 10:18 Re Ex-CC: “No, dear old “by enlarge”, your A-grade in A-level English was (probably) not a fluke. It more likely resulted from 13 years of Labour government sponsored “dumbing down” of A-level grades, something that the best private schools have been doing their best to work their way around for a while now.” Explain to me how I matched pupils from the best private school pupils (in terms of LLB classification) at one of this country’s best institutions then? Did Labour “dumb down” this degree also? I agree with your viewpoint on state schools but to attempt to judge me a) on my secondary educational background and b) fluffing an idiom is prejudiced at best, snobbery at worst. Reply Link Anon 29 December 2010 at 22:41 This is a non-story. I would imagine that the percentage is the same in IT, Banking, Medicine etc. I don’t believe that a state school education puts an individual at a disadvantage. It never did me any harm. It’s attitude that counts. People who work hard and get plenty of placements get the jobs nowadays. I am currently doing my LPC and there is a marked difference in attitude between those with and without training contracts. Reply Link Anony-mouse :) 10 January 2011 at 13:05 I have to say I agree with Tim. I actually did the GDL and came very close to winning a TC at a magic circle firm (a few final round interviews, won the debating prize at interview etc.). I went to work in hedge funds instead but I will say I was enormously put off by the frankly bunch of immature t*ssers on my GDL aka the rugby clique with their banal drinking games and loutish behaviour. These people were not intellectuals and unfortunately most solicitors are not. Perhaps because of the enormous shift to corporate-finance related work (arguably as a result of the enormous financial bubble we have seen for at least the last 10 years, arguably the last 40) its more about ‘doing deals’ and getting through mountains of paperwork quickly which means what law firms *really* want is people with connections, or the ability to make them which means if you can play golf or rugby or the other typically public school pursuits you are at an enormous advantage, with a ready-baked social network to tap into developed since age 11 (assuming that you were a successful rugger b*gger at school). Some of the people I met were ok but felt pressured to confirm; in general there was an overwhelming pressure to fit in with and that is a key-point: the law is not all-embracing, it is very much about becoming or being a clone. These louts were the people who, by and large, got TCs at the large law firms, even the guy with the 2:2 from Southampton in History (he was ‘ok’ but tried very hard to create the impression that he loved himself. He was probably from stateschool but took up rugby). A few of the other ‘decent’ people also got TCs but they tended to wind up in high-street firms. I have friends from good unis with good grades who failed to get a TC because they didn’t have the right ‘personality’. Yes, there is a place for smart state-school people but I think unless they take up golf/rugby/drinking they are likely to be recruited into a niche area like tax where there are fewer jobs. Law firms understand this and hence will recruit fewer such people. So, bit of a rant. But the bottom line is the problem is with the UK in general, and particularly the class politics that dominate how people interact and business is done. But there is a ray of hope … as the city ponzi-scheme that we have experienced unravels, there will be more legal work in traditional areas such as litigation, health & safety, employment (!) where what is important is an ability with the law rather than getting p*ssed with clients. Hopefull we will see the legal profession stick up for itself more regarding the executive (particularly the home-office) as it has been losing credibility in recent years (to me anyway). That should bode well for education overbrawn, even if it means a lot less money for magic circle partners!! Reply Link Josh 13 February 2011 at 02:45 This is ridiculous. Blaming the public school sector won’t change anything, on the other hand fixing the state school sector might. Magic circle firms recruit from the best universitites because they are the best law firms and they want the best candidates, it’s not really that difficult to understand. And how can you say that 15% of lawyers are public school educated whereas only 2% of the populaton is and use that as proof of the increasing inequality in the profession, especially if you take into consideration the amount of public school pupils compared to the amount of state school pupils who achieve straight As at A Level and then 2:1 and 1 at university. I’m sure that the public school sector beats the state by a mile. Why would it make any difference what your parents earn when you’re being considered for a job? It’s not like firms work on donations from their workers. Public schools provide better students (on average) and therefore more of those pupils are at the top firms. The answer is fixing the messed up state school system and stop trying to blame public schools for doing so well, which frankly makes no sense whatsoever. Reply Link Downtrodden Tick 14 February 2011 at 14:47 “Magic circle firms recruit from the best universitites because they are the best law firms and they want the best candidates, it’s not really that difficult to understand.” Exactly. And given that there are as many state-educated undergrads at Oxbridge as privately-educated, that means there will be equal numbers of state- and privately-educated partners at the best firms. “…the proportion of magic circle partners aged under 39 who were educated at public schools rose from 59 per cent to 71 per cent between 1988 and 2004.” Oh. Reply Link Name Email Cancel reply Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.