Legal sector dominates social mobility power list

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Top ten spots for Baker McKenzie, Linklaters and BCLP

A number of top law firms have been recognised for their efforts to improve social mobility in the workplace.

The 75-strong list, produced by the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF), evaluates and ranks UK organisations on a range of criteria including engagement with young people, apprenticeships, recruitment processes and the career paths of individuals from lower income backgrounds.

The accolade of highest ranking law firm this year went to Baker McKenzie in fifth place, followed by magic circle player Linklaters and international outfit Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in ninth and tenth spot respectively. There were also top 20 spots for DWF (16th), DLA Piper (18th) and Herbert Smith Freehills (19th).

Sitting just below them are Freeths (27th), Scottish outfit Brodies (28th), Allen & Overy (32nd), CMS (33rd), Clifford Chance (37th), Slaughter and May (40th), Shoosmiths (48th), Eversheds Sutherland (49th), and Mayer Brown (51st).

The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The other firms recognised for their social mobility endeavours are Pinsent Masons (52nd), Dentons (57th), HFW (59th), Hogan Lovells (60th), Burges Salmon (63rd), Freshfields (64th), and Simmons & Simmons (69th). Away from corporate law, the Ministry of Justice placed 7th and Inner Temple secured 26th spot.

SMF, a charity which aims to make practical improvements for young people from low-income backgrounds, says research has consistently shown that people from more “affluent backgrounds” scoop up a disproportionate number of “best jobs”. This, it argues, is because employers tend to disproportionately employ graduates who went to private schools and elite universities.

David Johnston OBE, chief executive of the SMF, said: “Whilst no employer would say they have cracked their social mobility challenge, all of the employers in the top list — along with those that didn’t quite make it — should be congratulated for the efforts they’re making to ensure their organisation is open to talent from all class backgrounds.”

The latest index follows research published earlier this summer which showed that 65% of the most senior judges in England and Wales attended an “independent school”. Only 7% of the general population was privately educated.

View the full rankings here.

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Very good. US law firms and investment banks are a couple of the great meritocracies in the City and opportunities to improve one’s station.



Couldn’t agree more. US law firms allow barrow boys to move into the City and coin it.



Freshies and Slaughters are bastions of social mobility? We are through the looking glass here.



Spot on. The problem of social mobility (to the not unlimited extent that it’s a “problem”) runs much deeper than recruitment policies for well-paid jobs.

All this ostentatious do-good-ing by law firms, and the boosting of the virtue-signal by websites like this, is really designed to have the effect it in fact has: viz., to keep things pretty much exactly as they are.



Who knew that these firms included their cleaners in the stats? To be fair, everyone not qualified is probably common as muck there.

The only reason they retain them is for these stats.



We’ve got about 3 social mobility cases that we wheel out every year. It’s just a copy and paste job on the email.



A trasngender employee who has transitioned from a man to a woman is a PR supernova. And they help boost female employee retention rates.



We had a trainee that used the word “toilet”. Giving them a contract was enough social mobility for me, though you could not take them to client meetings in case they need to ask for the loo.


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