Trainee specialist Accutrainee has launched a scholarship programme for Black law graduates to help provide the work experience they need to become solicitors and pay for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
Susan Cooper, CEO and founder of Accutrainee, said the programme aimed to provide a practical way of “moving forward with diversity in the profession”.
She said the first group of scholars from a Black heritage background would start a six-month placements in March this year at City law firm CMS and at the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE), set up by the Competition and Markets Authority in 2016 to deliver ‘open banking’.
Ms Cooper, a solicitor who specialised in banking at City firm Hogan Lovells, said the scholarship programme was advertised on social media, through law schools and the Black Solicitors Network.
She said the graduates being assessed for the programme now had done either a law degree or a conversion course, and some had also done the legal practice course, in which case they would not need the SQE.
She said no there were no additional requirements the scholars must have apart from identifying themselves as coming from a Black heritage.
The selection process would look at “the challenges they come up against and how they overcame them”, the schools they came from and their home environments.
“We’re looking for individuals who ooze potential, are keen and eager to learn and have the core competencies that trainees need to have.”
Accutrainee, which launched in 2011, recruits trainees and sends them on secondments to law firms and in-house legal departments.
Ms Cooper said the number of scholars and placements would depend on the number of sponsors that came forward, and she was currently in discussions with other law firms and companies. She said first group of scholars was likely to up to four-strong.
“Our trainees have told us that they really enjoy the idea that they might go to a top City law firm, or a FTSE 100 company or a start-up.”
She said the first group of scholars would learn a “broad range of skills relevant to the fintech sector”, such as financial services, regulation, data, privacy, IT and IP, along with a broader range of commercial skills.
As more sponsors joined the scheme, she wanted to expand into new areas, such as construction or international trade.
Michael Cavers, early talent partner at CMS, commented: “As a global organisation with clients and employees from all walks of life, diversity and inclusion is a central part of our culture.
“We strive to provide a successful, dynamic, progressive and supportive environment where all our people can thrive.
“We are dedicated to expanding opportunities for the BAME lawyers of the future and are pleased to sponsor Accutrainee’s scholarship programme.”
Selene Brett, general counsel for the OBIE, added: “As champions of collaboration and innovation, OBIE is pleased to be at the forefront of an initiative that takes a fresh look at the traditional legal training and qualification route.
“We want to be part of the development of the talent our sector needs to respond proactively and imaginatively with legal solutions to the evolving regulatory tech space.”