Social climbing in the magic circle

Social mobility – essentially, making poor people a little bit richer – is not something that has always been high on the list of law firms’ priorities.

The traditionally astronomical charge out rates of the magic circle have made a few rich people, at least temporarily, slightly poorer. But it’s debatable whether Nye Bevan would see such activity as promoting the great charge towards social democracy.

That, however, is all set to change after senior figures from the elite of the UK’s legal community got together to form their very own version of the Fabian Society (see story). In a rare show of unity in the profession, the illuminati legali discussed how to encourage youngsters from ’non-traditional backgrounds’ to think about a career in law.

Precisely what a non-traditional background entails is open to debate. While most would agree that, for instance, David Bowie’s progeny would fall into that particular ellipsis of the social Venn diagram, using criteria such as race, social class or education is a much thornier problem.

And it’s not just an anachronistic perception that says our top lawyers are silver-spoon merchants. In Alan Milburn’s 2009 social mobility report, the law was earmarked as one of the most blue-blooded of the professions.

It might be a start if these firms realised that diversity isn’t just about having a choice of teas in the canteen.


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