Manchester Law School scholarship to boost number of black males entering legal profession

Students will receive £3,000 for each year of their undergraduate degrees

The University of Manchester’s School of Law is launching a new scholarship designed to help boost the number of black males entering the legal profession.

The Lemn Sissay Law Bursaries, named after the university’s current chancellor, aim to address the obstacles faced by aspiring male lawyers of African and Caribbean descent from disadvantaged backgrounds. Up to three successful candidates will receive £3,000 for each year of their undergraduate degree to put towards course fees and living costs.

To be eligible, applicants must be, among other things, a male of African or Caribbean heritage, not have attended a fee paying school and applied to study an undergraduate degree at Manchester Law School. A full list of the eligibility criteria can be found at the bottom of this post.

The scholarship is as a result of work done by the law school’s Black Lawyers Matter project when it came out that only 14 out of a total 1,200 undergraduates were UK-based black males of African and Caribbean heritage and were registered on law and criminology courses. But none of them were from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Sissay — an author and broadcaster whose mother arrived in Britain from Ethiopia in 1966 — said that he felt “immensely proud” to have the bursaries named after him, and fully understood how difficult it can be for black men from poor backgrounds to “advance in life”. Continuing, he said:

One of the main goals of the university is social responsibility, which makes it unique in the UK. It does an awful lot to inform communities who may feel university isn’t for them that the opposite is true, through public engagement work and schemes like this one.

Doughty Street barrister and social mobility advocate Tunde Okewale has thrown his support behind the initiative. The Nigerian-born crime specialist who grew up on a council estate in Hackney said:

This is something that would have benefited me had it existed when I was studying law. I believe that it will help to improve and increase the diversity within the legal industry, as well as facilitating a more open and transparent dialogue about racial inequality in higher education.

Lemn Sissay Law Bursaries eligibility criteria:

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Are you disadvantaged?

Did you experience local authority care or go to a rubbish school?

Do you aspire to law?

Great! In that case it is my pleasure to award you…

HOLD EVERYTHING. You have the wrong skin colour. It’s too white. Go away, clear off! These scholarships aren’t for you my Caucasian friend. I’m sorry, but this is absolutely necessary to combat racism in British society.

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It is a shame, the Chancellor must know this is divisive yet the willingness to put his name to it is probably a condition precedent to getting the overpaid job and keeping it. What seems implicit to me is that if you educate an orphan, say, or someone disadvantaged who has grown up oppressed by his own countrymen, you end up with John Lennon, Johnny Rotten or Tommy Robinson. They have to endure long odds to influence society. No-one wants to shorten the odds by giving them a broad vista of social injustice through practising law or give them the skills and salary associated with an establishment profession because the danger is you create a magic bullet.

With this scholarship you *could* get a legally qualified Malcolm x or Martin Luther King because of the disadvantaged and in care angle. That person may well raise up the oppressed of all creeds and colours by having them as his client in time, rather than the corporations of a Manchester law firm. But it is a con not to have a scheme which lets a black scholar make friends with such white and Asian scholars straightaway.

If I was Chancellor, I would be confident enough about my ability to earn a living doing something else that I would have rejected this idea and posed a better one.

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Oh yawn, here we go again with the bird brained’mirror’ argument.

‘Wahhhhhh! Racism! Discriminates against white people! Wahhhhh!’

Um, no. It’s black people who have been historically excluded from the profession and initiatives like this aim to redress the balance and improve their representation in the profession.

Hope that helps.

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I am not sure that is correct. Black people will be lawyers and even slave masters in some societies. Here there is an initiative to make England a diverse but fair culture. Yet there is a particular underclass that are excluded. There is clear data now a about their exclusion but even the son of an Ethiopian, when in a position to create a multi cultural scholarship for those in care or disadvantaged doesn’t.

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Libeturd Leftie

You are conflating two separate issues… the scholarship explains the terms of eligibility.

However it does not state that you have to get poor grades wtc, unless you are equating being black and from a poor disadvantaged area as meaning the applicant’s grades will be poor.

equally it is a partial scholarship limited to 3 people from typically disadvantaged backgrounds, are you saying there are no other initiatives for other ethnic persuasions from similar circumstances?

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I genuinely do not understand why legal cheek readers have such a problem with this? The scholarship is intended to increase diversity in the legal profession by providing assistance to black males, who are an underrepdented group. I honestly cannot comprehend why anyone would have a problem with this.

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So a man who has never experienced any “obstacles” in his life, but can choose to describe his neighbourhood as “disadvantaged” (in the same way as the privileged communities in leafy Notting Hill/Ladbroke Grove describe their neighbourhood around Grenfell as “disadvantaged”), with two parents, a stable homelife, perhaps parents both earning well and in professional jobs, surrounded by role models and security, can get this.

But a white or asian man or woman from a broken home, who struggles with issues at home, possible mental illness in a parent, scraping together every penny, and who fights against all the odds to get herself into a position to apply to Manchester Law School, cannot.


Let me just add this scholarship to the list of rejection reasons if I ever see that on a CV or if the winner of such scholarships ever come up on Google search…

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For one thing, this isn’t the only bursary out there and in-need students have plenty of other options as well.

For another, black males get arrested more frequently (regardless of guilt), get heftier fines and punishments and are more likely to be rejected even when they have better qualifications. Asians (of which I am one) do not face that discrimination. In fact, we asians are more likely to get hired over a black person even with objectively worse qualifications because ‘asians are good workers’

finally, piss off

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What a queer predicament we are in when white people from Eastern Europe are an oppressed minority for the purpose of bashing Leavers over the head in the Brexit debate and, at the same time, a privileged majority for the purpose of race-based affirmative action schemes like this.

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Frustrated Writer

Katie had learned early on not to answer an unexpected knock on the door at the Legal Cheek offices. Naively, when she had first started, she had answered, always being met by either a bomber jacket wearing High Court bailiff, Bluetooth earpiece in and summons in hand and looking for immediate settlement of debt, or even worse, a couple of burly, angry, debt collectors with similar intentions but darker methods.

When she heard the knock, therefore, she just pushed her earphones in deeper, and turned up the volume on the Coldplay album she was listing to, hoping Chris Martin’s whiny tones would drone out the noise. After a few minutes though, the knocking was not abating, and she was sure that she could hear a voice too. Not the deep, booming, Eastern European lilt of the last shady loan shark, but quite an opposite tone. This was a soft, female voice.

Katie arose from her chair, slipping out her earphones. The voice outside was lounder now.

“Hello, is anyone there?”, it called, expectantly, almost insistently, in an unmistakable soft Scottish accent. “We can hear you”.

Katie concluded that unless Alex’s creditors had taken a dramatically different approach, she was probably safe to answer. She did keep the chain on in case.

On opening the door, Katie saw the figures of a man and a woman. Both were in their early sixties, she guessed, dressed in matching green jumpers. Both were quite short, had white hair and kindly expressions. The man wore black corduroy trousers, whilst the woman had on a white skirt and pearl jewellery. They looked oddly familiar, but she could not place where from. They looked totally out of place, like they had just walked out of the bridge club in a small village somewhere into the dark corridor between the Legal Cheek office and the gravel company’s office that stood across the landing.

“Oh, someone’s here, brilliant!” the woman exclaimed excitedly as Katie’s face appeared in the narrow gap permitted by the chain. The woman’s face lit up with a kindly smile.

“Can I help?” Katie asked, trying not to sound irritated, hoping that this would not delay the manicure that she had booked in later.

“Take that chain off, lassie, we’re OK. We’ve come to see Thomas. You can’t be too careful in the big smoke though I know.”. Katie paused for a moment then suddenly connected the familiarity.

“Are you related to Tom?” Katie enquired.

Mrs Connelly spoke. “Eye, yes, we’re his parents, dear. We’ve decided to pop down to surprise him. Is he in?”.

Katie’s heart sank. She really needed that manicure, as she was meeting her friends that evening for a feminist anti-Tory sit in. She would be the only one with great nails, but she barely needed an excuse to get them done. Katie knew Tom was out for most of the morning. He’d said where he was going the previous evening when she left, but she had already put on her favourite Adele track on her iPhone so couldn’t hear him. If she was honest, she had done so she couldn’t hear him.

Katie unlatched the door and opened it a little wider. “Sorry, Mrs Connelly, Tom’s out, maybe you’d like to come back later, or you can wait at the café up the road. It’s very good”. Katie was keen not to have to entertain this well-meaning couple. Aside from the manicure, it was just awkward, given the history between her and Tom. She wasn’t even sure if Tom had told them about him and her.

“Ach no, lovely, we’ll wait right here.” Mrs Connelly said, pushing past Katie into the office, Mr Connelly following, taking a seat on the sofa. “What’s the point in having a high powered lawyer as a son if you can’t drop by once in a while?”.

Katie noted the term “lawyer”, realising Tom must have lied about his job. She made a mental note to explore that further if she could.

Mr Connelly spoke for the first time, also in a kindly, Scottish voice. “First things first. None of that Mr and Mrs Connelly business, we’re Malcolm and Morag, OK?”. He smiled and looked around the office, inquisitively. “This is lovely.” He said, obviously not really meaning it. “I suppose when you’re a high powered lawyer you don’t have the time to decorate so much.”

Mr Connelly looked back at Katie. “Thomas must be in court then, another important case, I presume?”.

Katie pursed her lips and tried to smile. “Yes, probably” was all she could say, not wanting to lie or perpetuate a lie.

“And you must be his secretary, Katie?” Mrs Connelly asked, before laughing and correcting herself. “Sorry, dear. PA. I know you girls like that title nowadays. He’s mentioned you”.

Katie almost hit the roof, but buried her anger. That would be saved for Tom later when he showed up. “Yes, I’m Katie”. She pointedly ignored the question about her job role. She would not confirm that she was subservient to a man. Not now, not ever.

Katie stood in the middle of the room awkwardly, not knowing what to do next, as the couple stared at her, faces expectant. She wondered what they made of the tiny office, which still carried the distant smell of disinfectant from the time it had spent as a cleaning cupboard, as well as sweat and vomit, when Alex was around. Luckily, he was nowhere to be seen. Katie’s mind raced for a second. What had Tom said of him? He was his senior clerk, in this little charade perhaps?

“He must keep you ever so busy, being such an important barrister” Mrs Connelly finally said. Mr Connelly gave her an exaggerated but playful nudge.

“Not important. Top barrister, dear. You know he always insists we say top”.

Mrs Connelly chuckled. “Yes, silly me. He must keep you busy dear, with all those MI6 secret cases he has, that we won’t talk to us about, and aren’t in the newspapers?”.

“Yes. Very.” Katie responded. She kept it brief again.

Katie knew that turfing them out was not an option. She could not bring herself to be mean to them. They were in this for the long haul. The next option was to dig a little deeper. “Can I get you a cup of tea?” she asked. Katie hated serving people, particularly a man. She had a first in law from Bristol University after all. But had to get them comfortable to get more information.

“Oh, aye, that would be magic!” Mr Connolly exclaimed.

Katie offered a forced smile and walked the short distance to where the kitchenette was situated.

Whilst Katie was debating which chipped, faded mug she should offer, she heard the characteristic sound of the office door opening, followed by a shocked gasp. Tom had returned. She moved slowly towards the door so she could catch his response. At least she could get some enjoyment from the situation.

“Mum, dad, what… what… are you doing here?”. Katie was glad she had looked, as his face was a picture. A combination of the look of a man seeing his car being rightfully towed away and someone who has been unexpectedly punched in the stomach.

Mrs Connelly stood and gave her son a hug, knocking off his flat cap with the force of her grasp and releasing him after almost a full two minutes. “Ach, we missed you laddy, we wanted to come down to see you. You never come back to see us”.

“But, you’ve never left Scotland before” was all Tom could offer, shock not yet subsiding.

“We do hate to travel, but we made an exception for our top lawyer son!” Mr Connelly responded proudly, ruffling Tom’s thinning hair.

Tom looked up and saw Katie standing leaning on the kitchenette door frame. She was holding a teaspoon, passively patting it against her pursed lips, a look of disgust and reproach on her face.

“Well, um, let’s get you out of here, how about lunch?” Tom said in an attempt at a breezy tone.

“Oh, that would be lovely”. Mrs Connelly responded. She turned to Katie. “Would you join us lovey? I know your boss. I think I can get him to let you off for an hour?” She tittered lightly at her own joke, glancing at Tom. Tom just looked uncomfortably back at Katie, trying to gauge her reaction.

“Thanks, but I’ve so much to do” she said, offering a weak smile. “I’ll let you guys catch up”.

“Oh well, next time then. It was so nice to finally meet you.” came the response “We’ll have a word with this one, tell him to give you a wee pay rise, or go home early once in a while” Mrs Connelly added, speaking in a hushed voice and winking theatrically at Katie and then Tom.

Tom, looking flustered, began ushering his parents out of the office. Once they had left, he briefly shut to door and turned back to where Katie was now lowering herself back into her chair. “I’ll explain later” he offered, weakly.

Katie gave Tom a blank look. “No need, Thomas. Just do whatever suits you best. As usual.”. Tom could think of no suitable response, looking down at the stained floor for a moment, before shuffling after his mum and dad.

As soon as the door closed, Katie picked up her stapler, launching it at the wall as hard as she could. The stapler made a loud noise at it crashed to the ground and split open, spilling its staples. It felt good to release the anger, but she wished Tom’s head had been in the way of the stapler’s flight.

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Legal Cheek noticed that its (condescending) article about the black guy who got a training contract at Freshfields has already become one of the most popular things it has ever published.

Expect more of these.

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Not Amused

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”

Why does Manchester University not share this dream?

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I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

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In kind of “never judged by the colour of his skin in his life, but if we keep on with the paranoia we get nice treats and jump the queues” and “never been judged by the colour of his skin in his life so let’s create a scholarship that does precisely that!” ways you mean?

Have a leg up – sure, you have done nothing to deserve it, you have not merited it, but have it, just because you have ASKED to be judged by the colour of your skin…

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Why hasn’t anyone mentioned that this scholarship scheme is also blatantly sexist in the extreme?

Men are over-represented in the law and should not be assisted in perpetuating this.

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Not really. At a junior level there are more women. There are just fewer senior women as they decide to go off and have children. Firms will tend to hire more women as they complain more when discriminated against and to ensure a pipeline of enough potential female partners in the future. Work them so hard the ovaries stop working so they have no option but to keep down the career path.

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Yeah, us liberals judge them to have been privileged by backward, primitive conservative thinking and policies that continue to protect the interests and sustain the advantages afforded by the white middle class. Law is a classic example.

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When will white people (poor or not) wake up and realise that for centuries they have benefitted simply from being white, whether that’s historically living in a country founded on slavery and colonialism that paid for all infrastructure, fine buildings and the wealth that propagates to this day.

Every one of them is a beneficiary in some ways. Even if it’s just not being hassled by racist police or not getting sh*t because of skin colour.

What’s wrong with redressing the balance? Everyone who can show they were descended from slaves should get a free home and a small allowance to make up what was stolen from them.

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And when will black people realise the world is not some Woolworths Coupon collecting club with a membership to increase or force or skew, that individuals alive today are responsible for themselves, as they are now, and should be judged for what they do and achieve NOW? And that every single time some crap like this comes out, it denegrates them all, it makes others question all of them, it stinks of inequality and it is the antithesis of a meritocracy.

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Legal cheek is intentionally sparking a race debate, following the article last week about the Freshfields scholar. Anything for cheap clicks. Disgraceful.

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I think that Manchester university’s pr department and organs like legal cheek would have publicised a similar scholarship that was on less divisive terms for those in care. As would any number of other universities. This will probably have its roots in the positive discrimination elements of the equalities act.

It is career politics for me, a shadow of what social justice could be – but this is all Chancellors of universitiea amount to.

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