Amid the publicity generated by headline-grabbing ‘CV Blind’ schemes and diversity networks, it’s easy to forget the virtues of good old-fashioned mentoring.
Yet the passing of wisdom from lawyer-mentors to law student-mentees remains a mainstay of the promotion of diversity in the legal profession. And at a time when the legal media diversity narrative is concentrated on other initiatives, there are some good opportunities out there.
The best places to look are the law schools, the Inns of Court and — from the summer — the Bar Council, which is shortly to launch a wannabe lawyer limb of its Bar Mentoring Service. The scale of mentoring programmes is impressive, with the University of Law (ULaw), for example, boasting 620 lawyer mentors on its books across the country. The Inns, meanwhile, offer all of their student members mentoring opportunities, with Inner Temple alone matching up 200-300 students with mentors each year.
Hodge Jones & Allen trainee solicitor Rebecca Aron (pictured below) is one of ULaw’s professional mentors. The essence of what she does is not dissimilar to the function met by Clifford Chance’s ‘CV Blind’ graduate recruiters or the diversity network Aspiring Solicitors: i.e. she helps students from non-traditional backgrounds gain a sense of the way law firms work, and points them in the direction of the channels into training contracts that glossy graduate recruitment brochures don’t mention.
Aron reckons that “she would never have got a training contract without my mentor” — hence her decision to become a mentor herself. She tries to convey “what life in practice as a solicitor is like”, “why specific training contract interview questions are asked” and how regulatory changes, such as the Jackson reforms, actually affect her.
The Inns of Courts’ mentoring schemes function in much the same way, helping to show wannabe barristers how the Bar really operates in a manner that goes beyond a mini-pupillage. For those who are not a member of an Inn, the Bar Council’s new prospective lawyer mentoring scheme will be open to all-comers, although initially it will be limited to students who have taken part in its work experience programme, Bar Placement Week. Bar Council social mobility policy officer Oliver Williams (pictured below) says that one of the main aims of the scheme is to help hopefuls “develop soft skills such as confidence, communication skills and the knowledge of how to navigate application form and interview processes”.
Listen to Legal Cheek editor Alex Aldridge chat with Aron and Williams in the podcast below.