Diversity article image

The traditional stereotype that most lawyers are white middle-class men is rapidly losing its value as firms embrace diversity schemes and reach out to students from a variety of social and ethnic backgrounds

Help breaking into the profession
The need to open up law to those who might otherwise have slipped through the recruitment net is not a new one, but there are a number of schemes now available to help students challenge stereotypes and break into the profession.

Diversity schemes and awareness help the legal sector become more open, accepting and representative of society, creating balanced lawyers with different perspectives who can bring something fresh to the profession.

More diversity schemes and events are being created all the time, so it is worth applying for one if you fit the selection criteria. If you have ever thought your background does not fit with the idea of a ‘typical’ lawyer, think again.

If you feel you could benefit from a diversity scheme, we have listed just a few here.

Lawyer 2B Year 12 Careers Day

What is it?
Lawyer 2B’s successful Year 12 careers conferences allow hundreds of students to learn more about a legal career. Now in their sixth year, last year’s event saw 150 students from 30 different state schools and colleges descend on BPP Law School.

Students can attend presentations, gain advice on law school applications and find out how the legal profession works. Top law firms, including Baker & McKenzie, Linklaters and Slaughter and May, have been involved.

Who can apply?
Gifted & Talented Year 12 A-level students.

How do I apply?
Students interested in law are chosen from various state schools in the London area, where they would be the first from their family to attend university.

Pathways to Law

What is it?
The £4m initiative was launched by the Legal Education Foundation and the Sutton Trust to support students from under-represented backgrounds through Years 12 and 13 to beyond university.

The programme involves students attending lectures, debates, career sessions and e-mentoring (weekly contact with a mentor who is a law student at your given university) at one of the 12 partner universities: Bristol, Essex, Exeter, Leeds, London School of Economics, Manchester, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Southampton, University College London and Warwick.

There are between five and seven sessions organised each year. In addition, students get the chance to complete a placement with a law firm as well as attend a three-day residential conference in the summer, usually held at Warwick. The 400 students selected are expected to commit to the scheme over the two years during Years 12 and 13.

Who can apply?
The scheme is open to state school students at the beginning of Year 12 who are interested in a legal career and have, or are predicted to achieve, mostly A*, A and B grades at GCSE. They will also be the first in their family to attend university. There are, on average, three applications per place.

How do I apply?
Online at www.suttontrust.com/students/pathways-to-law.

The Legal Gateway Scheme

What is it?
The scheme offers various career development opportunities such as mentoring and workshops. There are
two schemes: Today’s Children Tomorrow’s Lawyers (TCTL) and the Legal Launch
Pad (LLP).

The TCTL scheme, for school-age students, involves provision of open days, careers workshops and work experience as well as taking part in the Black Lawyers Directory’s Great London Debate.

The LLP, on the other hand, caters for about 45 university students and includes four days of training over nine months. It teaches negotiation skills, commercial awareness, application and interview skills. Students can also take part in work experience at a top law firm.

Who can apply?
TCTL is for 13-19-year-olds from an ethnic minority and disadvantaged background who are interested in a career in law or want to learn more about the profession. LLP is aimed at university students; there is a better chance of getting on to the scheme if you are in your second or third year.

How do I apply?
TCTL: schools targeted in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester.

LLP: CV and online application at www.onlinebld.com/index.html.

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity London

What is it?
Sponsors for Educational Opportunity London provides summer internships with top corporate law firms in London. In addition, students are given mentoring and individual training. Some 80 per cent of its students have got placement offers since the scheme began in 2000. At last count, 15 City firms plus several in-house legal teams participate, including Berwin Leighton Paisner, Macfarlanes, Simmons & Simmons and Linklaters, the last of which recruited 10 per cent of its 2012 trainee intake from the scheme.

Who can apply?
The scheme is open to ethnic minority students with a minimum BBB at A-level and who are on track for a 2:1 degree. Law students can apply in their penultimate or final year and non-law students in their final year only. Students can also apply while completing the Legal Practice Course.

How do I apply?
Online, including CV and covering letter, at www.seo-london.com. Assessment includes a verbal reasoning test, competency-based interview and case study exercise.

The Social Mobility Foundation

What is it?
For Year 12 students, the Social Mobility Foundation runs an ‘Aspiring Professionals’ programme that offers students a chance to be mentored for a year by someone senior in their chosen profession. Students take part in workshops and talks covering advice on university applications. Students also have the opportunity to be considered for summer internships at top firms in the sector.

Who can apply?
Year 12 students who received free school meals, with at least five GCSE A grades.

How do I apply?
Online at www.socialmobility.org.uk.

Law Society Diversity Access Scheme

What is it?
The scheme offers graduates Legal Practice Course scholarships, work experience opportunities and general career support. In 2012, there were 50 places.

Who can apply?
To qualify for the scheme you must have had to overcome ‘exceptional obstacles’ to qualify as a solicitor. The Law Society website states: “Obstacles may be of a financial, social, educational or personal nature, or might relate to a disability or chronic health condition that makes the goal of qualifying as a solicitor a particularly challenging one.”

How do I apply?
Online at juniorlawyers.lawsociety.org.uk/funding-studies.


In 2011, a host of City law firms threw their weight behind the first profession-wide social mobility scheme to provide hundreds of work experience places for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Born out of Allen & Overy senior partner David Morley’s idea, ‘Prime’ now has more than 80 signatories, jumping from just 22 founding members in 2011.

The list of firms range from magic circle to regional practices, with a fair smattering of Scottish firms. In-house legal teams have also started to get involved.

Each firm has pledged to offer 30 to 35 hours of contact time per individual, with a programme that informs students about opportunities within a law firm as well as developing their skills.

The most striking aspect of the programme is that each firm has to commit to at least half the number of work experience places it currently offers in training contracts, with a target for the wider profession of 2,500 places by 2015.

With about 4,900 training contracts awarded each year, this will certainly be a challenge. However, in November 2012, Lawyer 2B revealed that 20 of the 23 founding firms had exceeded that target in the first year of the scheme and that 96 per cent of students were happy with the experience.

For more details visit www.primecommitment.org

Diversity initiatives at the bar

The bar has stepped up its efforts to widen access following a report prepared by Lord Neuberger in which he set out a series of measures to give students from non-traditional backgrounds a better chance of breaking into the profession.

The latest initiative saw Inner Temple, in partnership with 50 chambers, launch the Pegasus Access Scheme, aimed at offering university students a range of three to five-day mini-pupillages. See www.pegasus.me.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council runs a week of events for sixth-form students aimed at promoting better access to the profession. Working with the Social Mobility Foundation and 60 chambers, the Bar Council gives students from England & Wales an introduction to the bar through an annual week-long placement scheme.

The London scheme is six years old and includes a three-day placement in chambers, attending a session at a Crown Court, networking events, introductory talks and workshops, and lunch at the Inns of Court. A Birmingham placement week has also been launched for the first time in 2013.

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