Accessibility Links

Freshfields launches diversity scheme

Posted by: Laurence Simons 18/02/13

The arcane rituals and financial commitment needed to prepare for a career in the law made it an area that used to be dominated by well-educated and expensively-schooled graduates - not everyone could afford the gold-plated, winged horse needed to rise to the bar, for instance.

While recent years have seen diversity levels increase in UK lawyer jobs, there are still some concerns that people from unprivileged backgrounds are put off from a career in the industry - possibly because it is still perceived as a bastion of poshness, or through issues with the higher education system.

However, many law firms have introduced measures that could alleviate this problem in the future, with a new scheme recently announced by international business Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Entitled the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, the scheme aims to address the under-representation of black and ethnic minority men from low-income households in the legal profession by ensuring that up to four applicants can access long-term career funding when attempting to study the subject.

It was set up in collaboration with Doreen Lawrence OBE, the mother of Stephen, who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.

Launching the initiative, Freshfields' senior partner Will Lawes said that the company takes diversity very seriously, not only because of the ethical and moral principals involved but because it is seen as a "business imperative" when it comes to keeping pace with their rivals and attracting top workers to their firm.

"The legal profession still needs to do more to encourage wider access and opportunities for progression for the very best talent," he explained.

This is a further demonstration of the company's commitment to making social mobility a reality and helping people progress within the legal profession, Mr Lawes concluded.

Annette Byron, Freshfields' social mobility champion, indicated that this new scheme could have a "transformative" role when it comes to boosting diversity levels in the profession across the UK.

"The Trust is working with us to devise new ways to identify, attract and assess exceptional talent beyond traditional academic measures and we believe that this scholarship will provide those students with a strong platform for a successful career in the law," she concluded.

Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff recently highlighted another diversity issue, suggesting that many women are kept out of top legal positions because of a lack of flexible working and an adherence to traditional structures of productivity management.