We know that finding a job in the legal services sector is, to some extent, determined by the life chances available to people when they are growing up and their belief in their own ability. Drawing on our understanding within our organization of wellbeing and resilience, we offer work experience and mentoring to young people from less privileged backgrounds, who might otherwise not have the opportunity to access a legal career, to boost their career opportunities.
Priming young people for aspiration
We are founding members of PRIME – an alliance of law firms and legal departments across the UK who have committed to opening access to the legal profession to a broader spread of our population.
Supported by the Law Societies of England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, and The Sutton Trust, PRIME commits its member firms to providing high-quality work experience to successful applicants as a way of giving them an insight into the range of careers available in the legal profession, as well as the potential routes into those careers.
‘Insight’ work experience program: How law firms work
We have developed long-term links with schools such as Mossbourne Community Academy and City and Islington College since launching our first ‘Insight’ work experience program in September 2011. Students apply to join the program and we actively encourage both A* students and those who, given adequate support, could work at this level.
Students are given access to a mentor and they participate in a mix of skills development workshops, case studies and networking activities with a variety of teams. They are also given work experience. Themes covered in the Insight program include team working, networking, confidence and resilience, and a CV surgery session. The last day of the program focuses on planning and next steps: students are encouraged to write a summer development plan with some short-term objectives to complete over the summer.
Since 2014, we have been collaborating with Bank of New York Mellon to deliver this program, helping students to gain a better understanding of how law firms work with their clients.
We run a program, called Inspire, for one week each August, which aims to provide a combination of work experience, mentoring and workshops to Year 12/13 students. Students are chosen from organizations such as Pathways to Law and the Social Mobility Foundation. Workshops conducted focus on building confidence, self-awareness, presentation styles, team-working skills and planning for the future.
Because it is important to us to build long-term relationships with the students, we launched an alumni program so that students receive relevant news updates and, in turn, keep us updated on what they do. During their first year at university they are invited to an alumni event where we work more intensively with them on making applications for jobs and securing places at open days, as well as conducting mock interviews. To date, more than 100 students are actively engaged in the alumni program, and we are pleased to report that two of them have returned to the firm – one on a winter vacation scheme in 2016, and the other on a training contract that started in 2017.