Freshfields has selected 13 new scholars to join its Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme, now in its ninth year, bringing the total number of scholarships awarded to 95.
Established by Freshfields in 2013 with support from Doreen Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon OBE, the scholarship aims to address the disproportionate under-representation in large commercial law firms and other careers in the City of London of Black men (African, African-Caribbean, and mixed-race African or African-Caribbean) from less socially mobile backgrounds by creating access to opportunities.
Annette Byron, Freshfields partner and a founder of the scheme, commented: “I continue to be inspired by the talent and commitment demonstrated by the scholars we welcome onto the scheme. This sentiment is especially pertinent, given it’s been an incredibly difficult time for many students where less in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant those on the ‘wrong side’ of the digital divide have faced even greater challenges and barriers to opportunities.
“It’s vital we continue to identify talented individuals and create an environment where they have the opportunity to achieve their goals and ambitions. I look forward to working with this year’s scholars as we collectively strive towards improving diversity and inclusion in the industry and beyond.”
The new scholars will receive a bespoke 15-month development programme which includes skills workshops, commercial awareness, interview coaching, networking, mentoring, support with job applications and careers advice. They will also receive work shadowing at Freshfields and a guaranteed interview for a training contract at the firm, as well as a contribution towards course and associated study-related costs. During the pandemic, the firm also paid scholars additional technology bursaries.
This year, 35 universities across the UK nominated eligible law undergraduates for the scheme with 13 of them also permitted to nominate eligible non-Law students.
Freshfields trainee and 2018 Stephen Lawrence scholar, Blaise Nsenguwera, said: “The Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme has been truly life-changing for me. It has opened my mind to a world of opportunities I didn’t know existed and enabled me to set and achieve goals and ambitions I had previously thought impossible. As our invaluable network continues to grow, I am excited to work alongside the new scholars and witness the transformative impact the scheme has on their lives and potential.”
More than 175 colleagues from Freshfields were involved in the scheme’s assessment process, with many actively contributing alongside others to the scheme’s development and mentorship programme – including former scholars. Volunteers are also provided by Aon and the Bank of England, among other organisations.
To date, Freshfields has worked with over 70 participating universities across the country, and more than 560 talented law and non-law undergraduates have competed for a place on the scholarship. Scholarships have been awarded to 95 individuals, with the majority of recruitment stage scholars accepting roles at large commercial law firms, investment banks, barristers’ chambers and the Civil Service Fast Stream, or on Masters or Bar qualification programmes. 19 have accepted training contracts at Freshfields.