Law firm collaboration aims to improve access to profession

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More than 20 UK law firms have got together in a bid to provide young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with fair access to work experience opportunities across all facets of the legal profession.

The initiative dubbed ‘Prime’ has been backed by the Law Societies of England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as well as The Sutton Trust, which aims to improve educational opportunities for the under-25s from non-privileged backgrounds and increase social mobility.
David Morley, Prime’s chair and a senior partner at Allen & Overy, one of the scheme’s founding members, said: “It’s harder now than it was 30 years ago to get into the legal profession if you’re from an average or below-average income family. As a profession, we must change that.”
While some law firms had been providing their own work experience opportunities for some time, the goal in getting together and collaborating as a profession was to “create a step change in the legal sector’s commitment to fairer access”, he added.
Under the terms of the initiative, members will provide an agreed number of work experience places, which will not be less than 50% of those that they offer each year.
These positions are intended to provide participants with an insight into the range of potential careers (for both lawyers and non-lawyers) available within the legal profession as well as possible routes in.
The posts on offer will need to meet minimum standards such as providing between 30 and 35 hours of contact time per individual and will include a commitment to help them develop key business and personal skills in areas such as oral and written presentation, networking and negotiation.
Mechanisms must also be put in place to provide participants with financial assistance to ensure that they can attend work and enable them to stay in contact with their former employer after their period of work experience has ended.
A total of 24 law firms are currently taking part in the initiative including DLA Piper, Eversheds, McGrigors and Pinsent Masons.

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