The Law Firm Diversity Issue

The Law Firm Diversity Issue

Are law firms doing encourage to encourage diversity? The issue continues as more students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds find it a struggle to make it to the boardroom table in law firms.

But maybe things are changing on the diversity front.

The data collected by law firms in terms of the lawyers employed who come from state or public schools is not frequently harvested.

The Guardian reports that where the data is collected, it ain’t pretty.

Around 40%-50% of lawyers at some City law firms having been privately educated. By contrast, just 7% of the general population have attended private schools.

Most big law firms are keen to change these ratios and, driven by a concern that the recent trebling of undergraduate fees could make their socio-economic diversity profiles even worse, have begun taking proactive steps to do so.

Grabbing the headlines earlier this year was the “CV bling” initiative pioneered by magic circle firm Clifford Chance, recently adopted by fellow City outfit Macfarlanes and soon to be launched by the London office of global law-firm Mayer Brown.

The scheme involves a proportion of graduate applicants being allowed through to the final interview stage without their prior academic performance into account being taken into account. Instead, they are judged solely on essays and face-to-face assessments.

One aim is that it will give wannabe lawyers who didn’t benefit from expensive school education a better chance at landing a training contract. The firms are particularly keen to send out a message to candidates who went to non-traditional universities that they are keen to consider them.

Dominic Griffiths, graduate recruitment partner at Mayer Brown, says “there isn’t a single magic solution to boosting social diversity” and that the “CV blind” initiative, which the firm will pilot from September, is just one of many that it is involved with.

“We’ll give further consideration to the value of its wider implementation when we have looked at the results,” he says.

“You have to look at each stage of the recruitment process, firm culture and engage with students across the socio-economic spectrum in order to attract talent from the widest possible pool. Of our current graduate recruitment intake, 38 came from 18 UK universities, a quarter of which were from Oxbridge, which is encouraging but we are not complacent.”

Other law firms are operating different strategies. For example, Norton Rose Fulbright is working with an initiative called Aspiring Solicitors, which aims to provide underrepresented groups with access to law firms through workshops, events and work experience.

The firm hopes to reach universities with a broader student profile.

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