Allen & Overy (A&O), DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Lovells have thrown their weight behind a scheme to encourage students who attend state schools to enter the law.

The five top firms have pledged £350,000 to support the College of Law and Sutton Trust’s diversity scheme ‘Pathways to Law’ and will each offer 50 work experience placements per year for the next five years.

College of Law director Richard De Friend said: “Law firm involvement is very, very important for this project because the very nature of it is to try and encourage students from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds [to believe] they’ve got the capability to succeed as lawyers.”

The Sutton Trust published figures in 2005 that revealed more than two-thirds of top barristers and more than half of all partners at leading law firms were privately educated, this is despite only 7 per cent of all students attending private schools.

Susan Hazledine, A&O partner in charge of graduate recruitment, said: “We’re happy to be involved in raising the aspirations of students from less-privileged backgrounds.”

Sutton Trust director Doug Thomson said he hopes the scheme will eventually include around 30 law firms.