Top UK law firms unite to launch social mobility scheme

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  • I find it very interesting that a large number of the firms listed represent nowhere near a 'diverse' workforce. Most seemingly circumvent the ‘B’ in BME and focus mainly on the ‘ME’ to pass themselves off as ‘Diverse’.

    It is all well and good having these ‘schemes’ but what happens when these students get to the Trainee level they will have very few if not no one from their backgrounds to look up to as mentor as partners in particular if they are black …WHY? Where are the Black trainees and junior lawyers they are scarcer now that before and that is not because of a lack of qualifications, excellent a’levels, work experience and attendance at top Universities. As soon as the recession kicked in firms tightened their belts in terms of numbers and have seemingly completely thrown diversity initiatives in terms of the black population and future trainees – partners out of the window. Again I ask who will these students have to look up to? Firms are focusing now on the youth not realising that there will be a huge generational gap when it is time for them to qualify and progress their legal careers as well as a void in terms of partners, associates and in most cases similar trainees to themselves.

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  • @Cityboy - read my post before you reply / post links to pages that have nothing to do with what I wrote.

    @Matthew - I agree, there should be more people from different backgrounds in the UK legal profession but IMHO it will take a long time to get there. The quote in my original post says it all. In the UK being very smart is not enough, there is too much class angst going on. Good on you for succeeding against the odds, bright students from less privileged backgrounds would probably find a great mentor in you.

    In the meantime it would be nice to see the people leading social mobility programmes saying it like it is, i.e. using terms such as 'poor' or 'underprivileged' instead of 'non-traditional', whatever the latter is supposed to mean.

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  • These initiatives wind me up. They’re dreamt up by upper middle class women in law firm HR departments, who have little to no understanding of life outside a southern, private school, home counties bubble.

    To qualify for one of these schemes, you have to attend state school. Fine – that’s 93% of the population. Then, you have to be on free school meals, so that eliminates large swathes of both working and middle class children who are poor, but not that poor; not privileged, but not disadvantaged either.

    The poor get tax credits, housing benefit, free school meals, and a raft of other income support benefits. You don’t have to have much to fall just outside the scope of the welfare net, and yet, by the definition of this ludicrous scheme, you would be considered privileged.

    Bright working and middle class kids without much money used to go to grammar schools. Now they are shafted. The point is that they are the ones that could actually make it as a lawyer, with a bit of a push and guidance that these schemes can provide.

    Instead, we all know that these placements will be packed full of black kids from the worst schools in Peckham and Edmonton, while John from Walsall and Lisa from Swindon are not given a second thought. Jemima and Harriet from the diversity team will be delighted, of course.

    You click on the PRIME website. And then you see a video from Mishal Hussain. She’s as posh as anything – father is a doctor, independent school, Cambridge University.

    “But she’s Asian – wonderful – tick that box, Charlotte!”

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  • This is a positive step in the right direction, but as Robert Craig points out, it doesn't really address the bigger issue here.

    In short, many kids from lower and even middle income families are being priced out of a University education. Many will look at the sums involved and simply decide that they cannot afford to either have that luxury or take that risk.

    As Robert also points out, the big accountancy firms are again leading the way ahead of law firms. Until the large law firms undertake take schemes such as KPMG's (see link), then initiatives such as PRIME - however laudable - can only skirt the surface of the issue.

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  • @Anonymous 11.38
    I'm interested in how *you* define 'non-British' - let's assume that the majority of the participants will be UK citizens (although if they and their parents have indefinite leave to remain, why should they not also take part)?

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  • Tim, where in my post did I say that non-British individuals should not take part?

    You could at least bother to read what i wrote before you reply.

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  • I have to say that the only social mobility I’ve seen in law firms over the last couple of years are low paid administrative staff being forced down the social mobility ladder into poverty and unemployment generally through no fault of their own. As usual, management preserve their own lifestyle and excesses at the expense of those lower in the hierarchy.

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  • These are (some) of the same firms that have outsourced back office functions - really, perhaps they should treat exisitng staff with even a modicum of respect before extolling their virtues - rest assured these support staff will to a large degree have come from a very similar background.

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  • Sad to see so much cynicism. I'm close enough to this scheme to know that it is entirely well-intended and comfortably the most comprehensive response to a legitimate problem we've seen yet.

    Along with the attrition rates for women, the legal profession is fully aware of the huge pool of talent either remaining untapped or being lost. One cause is a lack of ways to identify talent, particularly given how early firms are recruiting for training contracts - i.e. before students have anything more than early academics as a guide. You can understand why a risk averse profession might take safe options in their selection.

    Brian Clough makes a good point. Grammar schools were probably the greatest aid to social mobility that this country has ever had.

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  • I thought A&O defined social mobility as moving their London support staff jobs to Belfast for knock down wages. This is really all to do with A&O trying to repair its image after a series of PR blunders that squandered their reputation as the 'nice' magic circle firm. The Belfast move and other measures show that neither David Morley nor A&O are really very nice at all. Bring back Guy Beringer!

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