Freshfields targets social mobility ‘cold spots’ with sixth form mentoring scheme

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Teens eligible for paid internships at magic circle firm

Freshfields is looking to address social mobility ‘cold spots’ through the launch of a new mentoring programme which sees sixth-form students take part in work experience and skills sessions led by the magic circle firm’s employees.

The three-year programme, run in partnership with the Social Mobility Foundation, will see around 100 students each year from lower socio-economic and racially diverse backgrounds receive mentorship from the firm’s staff, including lawyers. Participants, all aged between 16 and 17, will also be eligible for a paid internship at one of Freshfields’ UK offices.

This year’s cohort will complete the programme in 2024, which the firm says will enable it to provide “long-term support at a crucial stage of the students’ lives”.

Freshfields’ London managing partner, Claire Wills, said the firm strongly believes that “career success should not be defined by an individual’s social background or ethnicity, and we feel we need to do what we can to address the systemic issues which create barriers for many”.

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She continued:

“The new programme will enable us to reach those with less access to privilege and opportunity, and help equip them with the tools and knowledge to succeed. Increasing diversity and inclusion across the legal profession is not only the right thing to do, it’s essential for our business and for society. We are really looking forward to welcoming the first cohort.”

Sarah Atkinson, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation, added: “The pandemic has highlighted and increased the barriers which prevent disadvantaged young people achieving their potential, but it has also inspired businesses to respond to the challenge and invest in social mobility.”

The programme’s launch comes as a number of major City players including Simmons & Simmons, Norton Rose Fulbright, Linklaters and Allen & Overy, introduce recruitment targets to achieve greater ethnic and racial diversity across their trainee intakes.

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