GC100 chief backs legal work experience scheme

The Chair of the GC100, National Grid’s company secretary and general counsel Helen Mahy, has called on all in-house departments and law firms to offer work experience to school children from deprived areas.

Following a meeting with the Commission for Racial Equality, Mahy and National Grid’s senior legal adviser Harriet Hill piloted a work experience scheme for sixth-formers from Raine’s Foundation School in Bethnal Green.

“I’d really like to encourage other in-house departments and law firms, wherever they are and however big or small they are, to get in touch with a local school where pupils may not otherwise have the opportunity of experiencing work in a law firm or an in-house legal team,” said Mahy. “They will probably bite your hand off.”

National Grid has only four in-house lawyers, but has found space for four students to gain experience working in an office environment.

The students have worked with the legal and company secretarial team, helping with research and even attending contract negotiations.

“With dozens of people competing for every training place, the bar is set very high. These kids have a higher bar to jump over to get to where many people consider the baseline to be,” said Mahy. “This provides them with exposure to a different world and they can see that this is something that they can do.”

The initiative sits well with National Grid’s inclusion and diversity programme. Last year the company surveyed the diversity schemes of its external law firms, looking at recruitment and retention of ethnic minorities, flexible working and community relationships.

It was not part of a tendering exercise, but firms became more aware of National Grid’s views.