Contextual recruitment hits magic circle: firms to consider students’ economic background and personal circumstances

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By Jonathan Ames on

Training contract hunters’ achievements to be “contextualised”


The five magic circle firms — Linklaters, Slaughter and May, Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Freshfields — have jumped on board the latest legal profession diversity craze, announcing today that they have signed up to a contextual recruitment programme.

Norton Rose Fulbright, Macfarlanes and Travers Smith have also joined the scheme, which sees training contract hunters’ achievements “contextualised” in relation to their peers. It will be introduced at the firms next month.

The firms follow fellow City players Ashurst, the London office of Baker & McKenzie, Anglo-Australian giant Herbert Smith Freehills and scheme pioneer Hogan Lovells on the initiative.

Running the contextual recruitment system is London-based diversity specialist agency Rare Recruitment, which describes the technology as a “ground breaking” tool that “will improve graduate social mobility in the City”.

Rare — which claims the programme is the first of its kind in the UK — says the technique “hardwires social mobility metrics into the firms’ existing graduate recruitment databases”.

Rare’s system uses data from two databases: one contains exam results of 3,500 English secondary schools and sixth form colleges; the other contains 2.5 million UK postcodes. It then combines this information to place wannabe lawyers’ accomplishments in context.

Announcing this morning that Linklaters — which recruits some 110 trainess annually, the most of any firm in the country — had joined the programme, graduate recruitment partner Simon Branigan said:

In selecting some of the brightest minds in the market, we do of course look at academic achievement, but we also deeply value impressive, non-academic achievements.

Branigan went on to explain the attraction of the Rare programme to his firm:

Contextualising an individual’s accomplishments means we can truly understand the situation in which those academic and personal successes have been achieved and how their performance compares to their peers from similar backgrounds, with similar life opportunities; by understanding this we ensure that we are employing intelligent, well rounded individuals from broad walks of life, who will bring different experiences and perspectives to our business.

Baker & McKenzie and Hogan Lovells joined the scheme last May, while Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills jumped on board a month later.

In July the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission found that Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May each hired around 40% of their trainees from fee-paying schools.


Herbert Smith Freehills and Ashurst latest to jump on contextual recruiting bandwagon [Legal Cheek]

Two City firms launch sci-fi recruitment tool in bid to boost diversity [Legal Cheek]