Two more City firms adopt Lord Neuberger-backed contextual graduate recruitment method

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By Thomas Connelly on

Withers and RPC the latest City firms to take into account economic background and personal circumstances of wannabe lawyers


City firms Withers and RPC have given the green light to a contextual graduate recruitment method backed by Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger.

The technique, which has already been adopted by a host of larger City firms, assesses applicants’ economic background and personal circumstances.

Addressing almost 200 law students at a Legal Cheek event in October, Neuberger gave his support to the concept. Stressing the importance of widening the profile of the typical lawyer, Neuberger urged the profession to give opportunities to students from non-traditional universities who may not have enjoyed the same quality of secondary education as their Russell Group counterparts.

To further their contextual recruitment aims, both Withers and RPC are using a tool created by diversity recruitment specialists Rare. It is said to “hardwire social mobility metrics into firms’ existing graduate recruitment applicant tracking systems”.

For those unable to decipher the above, the system basically uses two of Rare’s databases. One contains the examination results of over 3,500 English secondary school and college students, the other contains more than 2.5 million UK postcodes.

Taking this data, and merging it with a candidate’s application responses, in turn produces a contextual profile for every applicant.

With all five magic circle firms already signed up, other law firms engaging in contextual recruitment include scheme pioneers Hogan Lovells and Herbert Smith Freehills, plus Ashurst, Baker & McKenzie, Macfarlanes, Norton Rose Fulbright, Travers Smith and professional services outfit Deloitte.

Withers — which offers around 10 training contracts annually — hopes the move into contextual recruitment will allow the firm to access a more diverse spectrum of talented aspiring lawyers. Jaya Louvre, the diversity manager at the private client specialist said:

Rare provides a fantastic service which allows a City law firm such as us, working in an area which has traditionally suffered from a lack of candidates from a variety of backgrounds to access a much wider pool of talented trainees. We are anticipating great results from applying Rare’s expertise and guidance to our recruitment process and amalgamating it with our other efforts to improve the social diversity of our intake.

Meanwhile, RPC, whose training contract offering is double that of Withers, is taking around 20 new trainees each year. It hopes that by considering wider details about an applicant’s background that it will help the firm break away from the “traditional recruitment process”.

RPC’s graduate recruitment partner Simon Hart said:

It will help us to spot exciting talent we might otherwise have missed, and ensure we build an even richer and more diverse population at RPC. It’s a fantastic tool and will bring a hugely valuable additional perspective to the way we recruit our people.

RPC’s formal adoption of contextual recruitment is an extension of its longstanding policy of taking at least two candidates each year on its vacation scheme who don’t meet the firm’s graduate educational requirements.