Coventry University’s Law School has become the first faculty to form a collaboration with a fast-growing mentoring programme launched by a trainee solicitor at City giant Allen & Overy.
GROW matches law students and early career professionals in the UK and US with experienced mentors in a bid to improve access to the law and social mobility.
The mentor is able to offer tailored advice based on having something in common with the mentee, such as the law firm they aspire to join, degree background, having the same alma mater, or membership of the same under-represented community.
GROW was founded by Justin Farrance at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak and has since paired 1,200 mentees with mentors from more than 50 law firms, in-house legal teams and chambers. It is open for applications from anyone aged at least 18 for one week every three months.
Mr Farrance runs GROW alongside fellow Allen & Overy trainee Natasha Dutton and is supported by the firm, which recognises it as a pro bono partner. It has held several virtual events in recent months with hundreds of students at a time, as well as Instagram Q&As.
Sharan Dhadda, associate lecturer and Coventry Law School’s liaison with GROW, said: “This initiative is a means to connect aspiring lawyers with legal professionals. It allows students to gain an insight into what working life is truly like and provides them with a direct line with people who have taken a similar path.
“The driving force behind this programme is to enhance social mobility, diversity and inclusivity in the legal industry. The legal profession can seem somewhat daunting; however, GROW helps to minimise that by connecting the two worlds.”
Mr Farrance, who is currently at Law Society social mobility ambassador, added: “Having virtually spoken to members of Coventry Law School, I was inspired by their efforts to support their law students and was very happy to launch GROW Coventry University.
“Mentorship is more important than ever in supporting diverse talent and I can’t wait to hear the progress students make with their career journey.”
GROW started when Mr Farrance asked on LinkedIn if there were any students in his network who needed help with the law firm training contract application process from someone who had recently gone through it.
Overnight he received emails from 150 students, all wanting to be one of the four people he said he could support as a mentor. The message clocked up 75,000 views. Soon after, Mr Farrance formalised it.
Last year, his own mentor at Allen & Overy, senior professional support lawyer Joanna Hughes, was named mentor of the year at the UK Social Mobility Awards.