Social mobility at law firms moving up the agenda

A new initiative spearheaded by Slaughter & May has attempted to try and solve the age-old problem of barriers to the legal profession for those from diverse backgrounds. Initiatives such as blind CV interviews may have gone some way toward solving the unconscious bias problems. However, there are still large numbers of very bright individuals who will simply self-deselect based on their backgrounds. 

A new initiative piloted over the summer saw organisations such as Yahoo and ITV team up with city law firms to offer work experience placements to sixth-form students from London schools. Placements included time in both law firms and within the in-house legal departments of technology and media firms. The idea was that students would be able to see themselves in either a blue chip or a law firm and appreciate the types of jobs on offer without feeling that they simply wouldn’t be considered. The aim is to break down both social and psychological barriers and ultimately encourage a more diverse workforce for the legal sector.


The implementation of Prime guidelines encouraging professional firms and in-house legal departments to provide social mobility work experience is a step in the right direction. The effectiveness of such initiatives, however, remains a subject of scrutiny. It begs the question of whether these efforts genuinely signify a comprehensive commitment to reshaping the workforce by fostering inclusivity. Or do they risk becoming mere checkboxes on corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies?

The success of these endeavours hinges on the sincerity and depth of the engagement, going beyond surface-level participation to instigate tangible, long-term change. It is essential for stakeholders to critically assess the impact of these initiatives, urging transparency and accountability to ascertain whether they are catalysts for authentic transformation or merely symbolic gestures in the realm of corporate citizenship. Share your insights on whether these efforts have the potential to bring about substantial change or if there is a need for more rigorous evaluation and commitment from organizations.

Hayley Rose is a Director in the Legal division of Harvey John

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