18 City law firms launch diversity work experience scheme to prove they don’t just want posh students

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State school-educated and other “disadvantaged” undergrads wanted


A new pro-diversity initiative has been created by 18 of the big City firms in yet another push for diversity.

Last month, Legal Cheek reported that, despite a host of recent initiatives to broaden access, the legal profession is still heavily dominated by privately educated lawyers.

In a swift reaction to these damning stats, a new social mobility initiative has been cobbled together under the name: City Solicitors Horizons.

The three-year scheme targets bright and hard-working law students from “disadvantaged backgrounds”, offering mentoring from lawyers and one-to-one training sessions. The big sell is a work experience placement with one of the 18 sponsoring law firms — including magic circle giant Linklaters and global megafirm Herbert Smith Freehills.

The thrust of City Solicitors Horizons is to combat the so-called “poshness test” adopted by recruiters — yet the scheme only targets the poshest areas of the country. The student participants — of which there will be 50 a year — are taken from universities across the capital and the south.

When we reached out to Gemma Watts, who is handling the PR for the new project, to question this, she told us:

[City Solicitors Horizons is] currently a pilot scheme, so it is limited to students from universities in London/the South at present as that’s where the current delivery partner SEO London can do training. We intend to expand it, in terms of numbers of students and geography, once more firms join. The Prime Commitment started with 21 firms, and now there are 89 and it has a much broader reach — we would like to emulate its success.

As mentioned by Watts, there are already a number of pro-diversity in law schemes, such as Pathways Plus and Prime, so what makes this one different?

Roger Finbow, chairman of the City Solicitors’ Educational Trust’s management committee and a trustee of the Legal Education Foundation, said:

[T]he provision of support and assistance for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are already reading law at universities and wish to join the legal profession is noticeably lacking, and many of these students still find it difficult to obtain training contracts. City Solicitors Horizons aims to address this issue and to give participants the opportunity to compete on a more level footing with other students.

For law students interested in the programme, applications will open in January 2016.

The scheme’s definition of “disadvantaged” is incredibly loose — and goes some way to evidencing how out of touch the legal profession is with the rest of the country. The principal requirements are that the student must be, either, from a non-selective state school, the first generation of their immediate family to attend university, or come from a socially disadvantaged background. They must also be committed to joining the legal profession and, in the judgement of their university, have a strong potential to succeed academically.

City Solicitors Horizons’ ultimate aim is to help participants enter the legal profession as trainee solicitors. It remains to be seen whether these objectives will be met.

The full list of firms participating in the programme: Addleshaw Goddard, Baker & McKenzie, CMS Cameron McKenna, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Eversheds, Herbert Smith Freehills, Holman Fenwick Willan, Linklaters, Macfarlanes, Mayer Brown, Pinsent Masons, Reed Smith, Skadden, Stephenson Harwood, Stewarts Law, Sullivan & Cromwell, Travers Smith and White & Case.

The full list of universities participating in the programme: Anglia Ruskin University, Birkbeck College, Bournemouth University, Brunel University, City University London, King’s College London, Kingston University, London Metropolitan University, London South Bank University, LSE, Middlesex University, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway University of London, St Mary’s University, UCL, University of Bedfordshire, University of East London, University of Essex, University of Greenwich, University of Hertfordshire, University of Kent, University of Law, University of Portsmouth, University of Reading, University of Roehampton, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, University of Sussex, University of West London, and University of Westminster.


Not Amused

Anyone who genuinely wished to help bright children who are born in to poorer households would close most of the universities in that list.

They certainly wouldn’t give those institutions a boost to recruitment by partnering with them in a scheme.



Agree, though it’s worth looking at their students to see if there are any great people who ended up going to poor universities for other reasons. If a student is very bright and hardworking then it is our responsibility to rescue them after having potentially being encouraged to go to a poor university, or not getting into a good one because of personal troubles or poor teaching for A levels.


Not Amused

It is a thorny issue.

I like the romance of ‘rescuing’ these children who go to bad universities. But the reality is that they have had 3 years of very bad education. Only a tiny minority can over come that. If you partner with or support the institution (indeed, arguably, if you do anything other than condemn it), aren’t you just increasing the likelihood that more innocent unsuspecting kids will end up there?

In any event, it is surely more important that firms and all respectable parties are seen to support and endorse the good universities. Indeed that we all do everything in our power to prevent this evil of bright but poor born kids going to universities which are far less good than those universities which they should have gone to.



Thank you on behalf of the readership here for abandoning that foul phrase, ‘poor born kids’.


Filigree Siberian Hamster

I thought it was “Poor barn kids”


most?? some, yes, but most?



What about people who struggle due to either background or disability. I was extremely lucky to have a bursery to a private school. I didn’t work any less hard than those who went to state schools. I am the first in my family to have gone to university I’m dyslexic and dyspraxia and have a speech impediment. There’s hardly any support for somebody like me as I’m assumed to be guaranteed to walk into a job due to being privately educated


Not Amused

In their defence it does sound as though you would qualify:

“The principal requirements are that the student must be, either, from a non-selective state school, the first generation of their immediate family to attend university, *or* come from a socially disadvantaged background”

I was more concerned by the non-selective requirement. I think that exposes the underlying political ideology – and I am surprised to see so many decent firms signing up to it. But this is what happens. Normal decent people are approached by people who purport to be virtuous. The underlying ideology is hidden by the purported virtue.

There is a whole host of lunatic and downright bad stuff being done in the name of social mobility. It is why more decent people need to get involved and anyone who is approached needs to check the small print.



What support do you need? Just contact the organisations you are interested applying to and explain your situation, either before you apply or in the course of your application.

There are also charities such as Employability which offer support.



Women are inherently disadvantaged due to our gender. Disabled and BME people are also disadvantaged this. The only answer is quotas.



I doubt NA is in any way qualified to talk about the standards of teaching at any of the listed universities. I bet it is just a load of conscious bias rather than fact that is fuelling these ridiculous and dangerous assumptions.


Boh Dear

He certainly wouldn’t be if he’d attended some of those universities.




With this and the other article this morning, I’m wondering if it is Not Amused clickbait day today?



“socially disadvantaged background” – how would you prove this without giving them too much information about your personal life and family circumstance?! It’s a good idea, but unless they’re really willing to hear why you should qualify, aside from the humiliation factor, I don’t see this helping those who aren’t obviously in one of those boxes.


Gus the Snedger

Wot? No Proudman comment?


For the giggles

Define ‘posh.’

What is the test of poshness exactly? Is it subjective or objective?
What is the maximum wage your parents must earn to fall into the category of ‘posh’?
What is the requirement needed to fall under ‘disadvantaged background.’

Take note, after all Channell J in Mary Clark Homes Trustee v Anderson described poverty as “genuinely straitened circumstances and unable to maintain a very modest standard of living for himself and the persons (if any) dependent upon him.”


Tarquin on his gap yah (Net worth $72.8m)

Hahah, all these diversity efforts won’t amount to shyte. The class divide is alive and well in our beloved, Tory-controlled, plutocratic Great Britain and is to remain that way.

You peasants may aspire to be the PM for all I care, but you’ll stay in the gutter (or the nearest J D Wetherspoon) where you rightly belong.

Now excuse me, I’m running late for my polo match at Donald Trump’s exclusive Bahamas resort.

Tally ho, dear peasants!


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