7 things that you should know about Clifford Chance’s ‘CV blind’ programme

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By Alex Aldridge on

This morning Clifford Chance created a stir with news of its ‘CV blind’ policy, which The Independent reports is designed “to break Oxbridge recruitment bias” at training contract level. On the whole it’s a positive step, but details have been rather hazy. We’ve spent the last few hours hunting for more information…

1. ‘CV blind’ is not, as some have claimed, limited to final interviews.

But nor is it a totally ‘blind’ approach. Candidates’ CVs are considered in some previous recruitment rounds. Accordingly, a degree of cynicism is justified.

But those who are overly cynical risk missing the main point of the programme…

2. The most radical aspect of ‘CV blind’ is the fact that a third of the places on Clifford Chance vac schemes are reserved for students who come through a route where CVs are not considered.

This route is in its second year and is known as ‘Intelligent Aid’. In order to get onto a vac scheme — which is a primary source of trainee recruitment — via ‘Intelligent Aid’ candidates must write a 250-500 word essay on a topic important to the firm and then do a presentation on it. This year’s topic is emerging markets. Although candidates are required to submit their CVs along with their essays, the firm says this is “for recording purposes only”, and that at no point in this process is the candidate’s university background revealed.

3. Places on this year’s ‘Intelligent Aid’ scheme are still available.

The deadline is 31 January. You can apply here. The only restriction is that you are a student/graduate of a UK university. The top 40 entrants are invited to an assessment day on 5 March, with the top 20 participants bagging places on the firm’s summer vac scheme.

4. The statistics released by Clifford Chance suggest that ‘CV blind’ is having a significant effect on its graduate recruitment, but some rival firms still recruit more broadly.

The Independent reports:


That’s an impressive improvement, but leaves Clifford Chance still trailing fellow magic circle outfit Freshfields, where, according to the firm’s UK graduate recruitment website, current trainees studied at 42 different universities.

5. A leading legal commentator has noted a risk in broadening graduate recruitment away from traditional universities.

UCL legal academic Professor Richard Moorhead writes in a blog about the news this morning:

“[Clifford Chance] may wish not to advertise too forcefully that they are not just recruiting other than from “the best” universities. Reputations for quality have been built, somewhat spuriously in my view, on they all come from X Y or Z for a long time and take some managing. This may be why the story appeared in the Indy and not the Times.”

6. ‘CV blind’ has helped Clifford Chance dramatically increase the number of black and ethnic minority graduates joining the firm.

According to Lawyer2B, the firm has tripled its intake of black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi candidates in two years.


7. The ‘CV blind’ policy has partly been driven by social media.

Traditionally, law firm graduate recruitment was dominated by the “milk round”, with firms targeting a selection of universities which they paid physical visits to. Over the last few years Facebook and Twitter have changed this, making it much easier for top law firms to broaden their graduate recruitment reach. And if you’re engaging with students at non-traditional unis, and find yourself impressed by them, then it’s only fair to give them a Chance, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Expect more law firms to follow Clifford Chance, albeit — bearing in mind the point about reputation made by Moorhead above — cautiously.