Rich parents blocked from buying kids legal work experience as magic circle firms withdraw from charity auction

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By Alex Aldridge on

Allen & Overy and Freshfields in significant U-turn

Instagram (Rich Kids of London)
Instagram (Rich Kids of London)

A pair of magic circle firms have reversed decisions to offer up work experience in a charity auction.

The move comes after senior individuals at Freshfields and Allen & Overy pledged the paid-for placements as prizes to raise money for The Duchenne Research Fund, which helps find cures for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Bidding for a vac scheme-length fortnight at Freshfields and a week at Allen & Overy that was dubbed “perfect for [a] 17-19 year old school or gap year student” was to begin at £100 in a swish dinner taking place next month at the Lancaster London Hotel overlooking Hyde Park. Typically prizes at such events, which are sold to the highest bidder, can fetch thousands of pounds.

But overnight details of the duo’s involvement leaked into the legal blogosphere via RollOnFriday and both Freshies and A&O have backed out.

This morning Freshfields sent this statement to Legal Cheek:

We are immensely proud of our award winning work experience programme. Last year we provided placements to over 150 students from less privileged backgrounds. Whilst this opportunity was well intentioned with regards to the charity, it does not fit with what we are trying to achieve with those students. Accordingly, we are in touch with the charity and will ensure that we reach an alternative solution with regards to their fundraising efforts.

Hot on its heels, A&O issued this release:

This was a well intentioned offer from a partner to help a great charity undertaking much needed research into the fatal disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy. We are vocal advocates of social mobility and as such have withdrawn the work experience offer from the auction to ensure our CSR efforts do not conflict. We will be making a donation to Duchenne Research Fund to ensure its great work continues.

Given their participation in diversity work experience schemes like PRIME, and other commitments to widening the socio-economic profile of new recruits, it’s surprising that the firms allowed the work experience places to be advertised for sale in their name. But their prompt action to withdraw from the auction represents progress for the legal profession.

Three years ago the bar declined to do anything when it emerged that Westminster School was auctioning off a mini-pupillage. Indeed, the coveted mini with a leading criminal barrister eventually sold for £2,660.

You can donate to the Duchenne Research Fund here.