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Browne Jacobson to ‘kick-start’ careers of aspiring black lawyers with new mentoring programme

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Paid work experience and ‘bespoke masterclasses’

National law firm Browne Jacobson is piloting a new mentoring programme with the aim of “kick-starting” the careers of aspiring black lawyers.

The initiative sees 13 mentees gain access to six months of one-to-one mentoring with lawyer members of the firm’s REACH (Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage) community, with an option to extend that by three months.

The programme will also offer two weeks paid work experience at one of Browne Jacobson’s five UK offices, and access to a series of “bespoke masterclasses on brand, routes into law and meeting client expectations”.

The Nottingham-headquartered firm — which recruits around 17 trainees each year and recently launched an emergency appeal for more in response to “phenomenal growth” in work — has teamed-up with a number of organisations with experience of working with black students to launch the programme.

These are the universities of Wolverhampton, Hertfordshire and Nottingham Trent, the Birmingham Black Lawyers network, and diversity charities First Class Foundation and Reach Out 2 Kids.

The mentees were put forward by the partner organisations and are a mixture of college and university students with low socio-economic backgrounds.

Bridget Tatham, partner at Browne Jacobson and one of the founders of the scheme, said:

“Black people are disproportionately underrepresented in the legal profession, particularly in senior roles and we are committed to playing our part to change the landscape. The REACH Mentoring Scheme is just one of the programmes we are co-creating with our REACH community, to increase representation of black talent at all levels across the firm.”

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The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s latest diversity survey shows that only 2% of lawyers working in law firms are black, compared to 3% of the workforce. A figure which remains unchanged since 2019.

Tatham added: “Ultimately, we are not only looking to positively impact early careers, but also the aim is to improve the retention and promotion of black lawyers across all areas of our business and the wider legal market.”

A raft of law firms have created initiatives with similar diversity goals in mind.

Gowling WLG launched a bursary scheme to help fund black students through law school as part of a partnership with Birmingham University, while magic circle outfit Linklaters has teamed up with the Black Solicitors Network to support black wannabe lawyers on their journeys into the profession. Other firms have gone a step further and implemented recruitment targets for ethnic minorities, including specific percentages for black trainees.

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