Magic circle firm Linklaters has hit back at critics who claim that City law is elitist by ushering in a ground-breaking initiative to get working-class people £15,000-a-year support service jobs at the firm.
The programme will see Linklaters team up with the London borough of Islington to find five apprentices for its print room, billing department, IT team, and HR and learning and development functions.
There’s no route from these positions into gaining a training contract with the firm, but Linklaters head of diversity Felix Hebblethwaite left no doubt that the lucky five appentices would be treated in the same way as the firm’s lawyers (who start on £37,400-a-year as trainees):
“There’s no commitment to a job afterwards but it obviously is some experience for their CV,” he explained.
In fairness to Linklaters, the firm beats many of its peers when it comes to social mobility, being one of the few to monitor the socio-economic backgrounds of its recruits. Its latest diversity report revealed that 34% of the firm’s lawyers went to private schools (7% of the population is privately educated). That’s not great, but way better than the Bar (68% of barristers at leading chambers went to independent schools) and the media industry (54% of the top 100 newspaper editors, columnists, broadcasters and executives were educated privately).
One of the ways Linklaters hopes to recruit more state school-educated lawyers is through the much-hyped “PRIME” initiative – which sees City law firms give school-level work experience placements not just to the children of their partners but also to some students with whom they have no connections.
To this end, the firm is set to begin pro-actively targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds who meet its entry criteria for training contracts.