Thousands of aspiring lawyers from lower socio-economic backgrounds are to benefit from a £1 million contribution the Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Law programme, a pioneering initiative designed to increase accessibility to the UK’s legal profession.

For the first time ever, the programme, funded by the Legal Education Foundation, along with nine leading law firms and their partner universities, are to provide financial support for GCSE students in Years 10 and 11, as well as throughout sixth form.

“By reaching students at an earlier stage, we hope to encourage more bright young people from poorer homes that a career in law is open to them,” said Matthew Smerdon, Chief Executive of the Legal Education Foundation.

“As a society, we need to be investing in our next generation in a way that promotes equality and opportunity and it is in all our interests if the composition of the legal profession reflects the diversity of the people and organisations that is serves,” Smerdon concludes.

The scheme has been launched following research the Sutton Trust’s research which found that three-quarters of the country’s top judges and 71 percent of QCs had been privately educated – proportions that have barely decreased since the 1980s.

Simultaneously, YouGov assessment of the legal industry, commissioned by the Sutton Trust and PRIME, has revealed that the benefits of addressing the problem are broad and widely accepted, with 52 percent of senior legal industry figures claiming that improving social mobility within the UK’s legal sector would be beneficial to their firm.

“Our research has shown that there is still a big social mobility issue within the legal sector,” said Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Foundation.

“Greater access to a wider pool of diverse talent will deliver real benefits for employers and employees alike. This is why Pathways to Law is so important. I’m delighted that our partnership with The Legal Education Foundation will enable us to expand the programme and support young people from a younger age and over four years,” he said.

Pathways to Law, aimed at academically able students from non-privileged homes, will be delivered by 12 UK partner institutions, including four new universities who have joined the programme this year, including the University of Roehampton, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Leicester and the University of Liverpool.

The 1,800 carefully selected students will receive a four-year programme of support, including:

  • University-led advice sessions to help them with training contract applications, CV and interview techniques, subject-specific revision sessions and legal workshops
  • A residential conference
  • E-mentoring from fellow undergraduate law students
  • Work experience within the legal sector
  • A trip to the Inner Temple and Royal Courts of Justice
  • A national graduation ceremony in London
  • Many also have access to further help and internships throughout their university course

Recruitment of Year 10 and Year 12 pupils is set to begin in August 2016. On top of the four new universities, partners include: the University of Bristol, the University of Exeter, the University of Leeds, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University of Manchester, the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent, the University of Oxford and finally the University of Warwick.

For further information or to arrange an interview, including with students who have been successful on the programme, please contact: Hilary Cornwell or Conor Ryan on 0207 802 1660.

Additional reporting by The Sutton Trust.

Image via Flickr.

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