Fifteen City law firms have joined a partnership with the Social Mobility Pledge to offer opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Meanwhile, more than 20 law firms and five sets of chambers have joined the Law Society and Bar Council in signing up to the #10000BlackInterns programme to improve diversity.
The Social Mobility Pledge was set up by former education secretary Justine Greening and entrepreneur David Harrison in 2018 to tackle Britain’s lack of social mobility.
To become accredited, employers have to partner directly with schools or colleges through careers advice, work experience or mentoring.
They need to provide ‘structured work experience’ and/or apprenticeship opportunities to people from disadvantaged backgrounds and adopt recruitment practices which ‘promote a level playing-field’.
The City of London Law Society (CLLS) said the 15 law firms would be working closely with universities such as Bradford, Liverpool John Moores, Lincoln and York St John.
The firms are Ashurst, Charles Russell Speechlys, Clyde & Co, CMS, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, Fenchurch Law, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Kingsley Napley, RPC, Simmons & Simmons. Simpson Thacher Bartlett, Sullivan & Cromwell, Trowers & Hamlins and Weil Gotshal & Manges.
The project is being led by former MP and City solicitor Seema Kennedy.
The CLLS said the partnership would create a “framework for leading law firms to work together on solutions that benefit the profession at large”.
Edward Sparrow, chair of the CLLS, commented: “By working with university vice-chancellors and sharing knowledge between law firms, we hope that this partnership will make a real and measurable difference in a post-pandemic world, where the importance of levelling-up access and opportunities will be more important than ever.”
Ms Greening added: “Many young people are seeing their life prospects drastically downgraded, with jobs and job offers disappearing. Meanwhile, massive demand for reskilling and career shifting support is building up.
“The challenge now, and one that CLLS member firms have stepped up to, is for Britain’s businesses and universities to play their role in boosting opportunity and social mobility as part of our national recovery.”
In a separate development the Law Society, Bar Council, over 20 law firms and five sets of chambers have signed up to an initiative to offer paid work experience to Black candidates across a wide range of industries.
The #10000BlackInterns programme will begin in the summer of 2022 and aims to run for the following five years, providing 10,000 internships to young Black people.
The society said 3% of solicitors come from Black backgrounds, the same proportion as in the wider working population, but only 0.5% of partners in large law firms were Black.
David Greene, president of the society, said: “We hope interning at the Law Society – or law firms signed up to the initiative – will open doors for aspiring young Black talent and inspire participants to pursue a legal career.”
The law firms that have signed up are Black Antelope Law, Burges Salmon, Carpenters Group, Carpmaels & Ransford, Charles Russell Speechlys, Clyde & Co, DAC Beachcroft, Dechert, Eversheds Sutherland, Fenwick Elliott, Fieldfisher, Fletchers, Gowling WLG, Kilburn & Strode, Linklaters, Osborne Clarke, RPC, RQC Group, Shakespeare Martineau, Shoosmiths, Simmons & Simmons, Taylor Wessing, Travers Smith, Willkie Farr & Gallagher, and Withers.
The sets of chambers involved are 4PB, Matrix, Keating, Littleton and QEB.
Furhana Mallick, chambers manager at 4PB, said: “It’s essential that the Bar represents those it serves. As a family set, it is so important that our clients see themselves in us and that we represent all that need our help.
“In order to bring about real change, we need to commit to ensuring a pipeline of diverse talent and to ensure doors are opened to the legal profession for people from all walks of life.”