CV blind: Now there are 3 firms assessing wannabe lawyers without considering their grades

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By Alex Aldridge on

Top 30 outfit Macfarlanes joins Mayer Brown and Clifford Chance in exploring new recruitment method aimed at broadening profile of the typical big law firm trainee — as wider City diversity push gathers pace.


Places on this year’s Macfarlanes vac scheme have been determined by a ‘CV blind’ method that is already being used by magic circle outfit Clifford Chance to select hopefuls.

The 180 applicants who were invited for interview in February and March for this summer’s scheme were all assessed by a panel who did not know anything about their educational background. Selection for interview, however, did involve the consideration of CVs. Macfarlanes says the process will “almost certainly” be extended to its trainee recruitment.

Macfarlanes head of recruitment Sean Lavin said CV blind recruitment has been “reasonably simple to introduce”, adding: “If this small step helps to eliminate any bias in favour for or against candidates from particular backgrounds then we regard that as a good thing.”

The news comes after it was reported that London-based international law firm Mayer Brown is close to implementing this method of recruitment for its future trainee intakes. Clifford Chance’s CV Blind programme was first introduced last year.

The decision of three big name firms to adopt CV blind recruitment suggests it could be on the verge of catching on widely in the corporate legal world.

The trend has been driven largely by the recent trebling of university fees, which seem certain to have a negative impact on social mobility. This has led to a sense among law firms that they will have to act if they are to avoid becoming bastions of elitism (which some, of course, already are).

But the wider movement to boost diversity in City law — which has seen the recent creation of a diversity network called Aspiring Solicitors that is designed principally to help firms recruit more state-educated students — is related, too, to a 2012 decision by the Legal Services Board to compel law firms to collect and publish diversity data. This information includes solicitors’ socio-economic background and where they went to school, and is pushing firms to think hard about possible hiring biases they may have.

After a host of delays in collecting the diversity data, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) expects to publish the findings in “late spring”.