Top law firms say they don’t want to hire only posh people any more
Big city law firms have decided they don’t just want privately educated as lawyers and barristers any more.
18 of the biggest law companies in London have launched a scheme to help bring in students from “disadvantaged backgrounds”, including magic circle firm Linklaters.
Much like banking, law is considered to be dominated by graduates who went to public schools with parents who own their own firms.
The idea of City Solicitors Horizon is to fight the so-called “poshness test” – an apparent technique used by recruiters to bring in talent from elite backgrounds.
They’re expected to get one-to-one tuition and support, as well as the very best work placements.
But the main problem with the scheme is that it currently only allows in students from the most privileged area of the country – the south east.
Students accepted onto the scheme must either have gone to a comprehensive school, been the first member of their family to go to university or come from a socially disadvantaged background.
But so far only universities in London and the surrounding counties, which hugely limits their access to disadvantaged students.
Ollie Burrows, a Law third year at Durham and former private school student, said the new scheme wasn’t much use: “This initiative seems to suggest that the inequality happens at the point of application to that law firm when you’re in your second or third year at uni. But once you’re here and actually studying law then from my experience you’re all in the same boat.
“If I apply to a law firm with worse grades than someone that went to state school their application is more likely to succeed over mine.
“I think the scheme is well meaning and potentially helpful. Just not as helpful as it could be.
“It’s unlikely that your dad’s firm will hire you out of university just for being you but rather it’s more likely that a firm will hire you for the simple fact your applications looks better because your dad could sort you out work experience over the years.”
Roger Finbow, chairman of the City Solicitors’ Educational Trust’s management committee and a trustee of the Legal Education Foundation said: “The provision of support and assistance for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are already reading law at universities and wish to join the legal profession is noticeably lacking, and many of these students still find it difficult to obtain training contracts.
“City Solicitors Horizons aims to address this issue and to give participants the opportunity to compete on a more level footing with other students.”
But when questioned as to why the scheme is only targeting people exclusively in the south, PR Gemma Watts told LegalCheek: “City Solicitors Horizons is currently a pilot scheme, so it is limited to students from universities in London/the South at present as that’s where the current delivery partner SEO London can do training.
“We intend to expand it, in terms of numbers of students and geography, once more firms join. The Prime Commitment started with 21 firms, and now there are 89 and it has a much broader reach — we would like to emulate its success.”
The scheme will open in January 2016.