Exclusive: Global law firm to award first and second years up to £18,000 in bid to broaden access to profession
The London office of transatlantic giant Hogan Lovells has unveiled a partnership with LSE and the universities of York and Durham to help fund law students through their undergraduate degrees.
The scheme, which comes three years after the government trebled the cost of undergraduate fees, will see two students from each institution awarded a maximum of £9,000 per year in their first and second years of study — giving them a total award of up to £18,000.
The cash comes from an overall funding pot of £150,000 earmarked by the firm for the programme to be used over the next three to five years.
Recipients of the bursary will be chosen by the three partner universities on the basis of need and merit. Criteria will include being the first member of a family to have gone to university and the standard of a student’s schooling relative to the grades they obtained.
Significantly, those given the cash will be under no obligation to go on to work for Hogan Lovells. Instead, the firm will offer optional mentoring and careers advice opportunities to the students.
This marks the programme out from the much larger scale funding packages for the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) offered by the big law firms. These deals see the costs of postgraduates’ study covered on the condition that they join the firm that is sponsoring them.
Speaking to Legal Cheek, Clare Harris, Hogan Lovells’ associate director of legal resourcing, emphasised the difference between such packages and what is a diversity-led initiative. She commented:
“The Hogan Lovells Bursary Scheme is about our commitment to social mobility issues and the wider theme of good citizenship. Whether the students go on to join us, or pursue careers elsewhere in the law is not the issue here. Rather, we want to support the ambitions of people who may be put off going to university because of the costs involved.”
Harris added that the firm saw the scheme as a way to contribute to universities’ outreach initiatives, which would leverage the Hogan Lovells brand in a mutually beneficial way.
“When, for example, Durham and York go out to students in the former industrial towns of the North East and Yorkshire, hopefully students will be motivated by the fact that a major firm like Hogan Lovells is taking an interest in them. At the same time, it is a way for us to get our brand out more widely,” she said.
Meanwhile, the universities involved have all expressed their enthusiasm for the initiative, with Durham Law School chief Professor Roger Masterman echoing the sentiments of his counterparts at LSE and York when he described the bursary as a “life-changing amount” that “will make a huge difference” to students. He added that it will allow the beneficiaries of the money to dedicate more time to their studies, reducing the amount of part-time work they have to do.
The scheme has just got underway at LSE and Durham, with the first bursaries set to be awarded to first year students at the institutions this term, and it will commence from September at York. Advertisements for the funding will be targeted at sixth-formers and awarded when the individuals start their first year at university.
Currently, the only comparable initiative in the legal profession is CMS Cameron McKenna’s ‘Bursary Scheme for Year 12 Students’, which offers four students £2,500-a-year during their undergraduate law degrees. It is awarded on the basis of an annual essay competition.
If the Hogan Lovells scheme is successful, Harris says that the firm will look at extending it to other universities across the country.