FROM DIVERSITY IN LAW: AN INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

Law firms: Breaking down the stereotypes

Law firms are interested in your skills and aptitude, not your family background or schooling, says Paula Quinton-Jones

When you think of a City solicitor, what image springs to mind? Bowler hat? Pinstripe suit? Old? Male? White? Law firms in the City are often stereotyped as being full of Oxford and Cambridge graduates who all played rugby together at school. Thankfully, this is a long way from the truth and law firms today are putting more and more emphasis on recruiting the very best talent from the widest range of backgrounds.

Recently, the Law Society requested that all law firms publish their diversity statistics. Although ethnic minorities and women are still relatively under-represented at higher levels within the profession, the pipeline of new entrants (those starting training contracts) has a much healthier balance. Women now account for just over half of all trainees joining City firms and this trend is set to continue as now nearly 65 per cent of students studying law in the UK are female. Trainees from ethnic minority backgrounds typically make up 15 to 20 per cent of trainee populations and this is significantly higher than the proportion of ethnic minorities that make up the UK population.

Whilst this is a great position for trainees and graduate recruiters, the challenge facing firms is maintaining this balance at all levels within the profession. More and more legal practices are looking hard at their flexible working and career development policies to ensure that all lawyers get the necessary support and training to take their career where they want to go.

So, it seems that it is at entry level that the biggest impact on diversity can be made and that is why graduate recruitment teams are constantly seeking new ways to reach the widest pool of talent possible. Graduate recruiters know that people choose universities and courses for a huge variety of reasons; some students choose to study near their home for personal and financial reasons, others choose the quality of the course or opportunities to study abroad. To make sure they reach as many people as possible, firms now visit a huge number of campuses on the university milkround; Allen & Overy, one of the City's largest legal practices, plans to visit 39 campuses in the 2006/07 recruitment year and accepted applications from 90 different universities across the world for the 2005/06 recruitment season.

Gender, ethnicity and educational background are just the tip of the iceberg though. What if no one in your family works in the City or knows any lawyers? What if you have to work to fund your studies and can't get involved in lots of extra-curricular activities? What if you didn't go to a private school? None of these things are actually a barrier to becoming a City solicitor, but as long as the stereotypes exist, people will think they are. Firms are keen to meet students and develop links to push home the message that if you have the skills and aptitude to do the job then your family background or schooling is irrelevant.

A number of major City firms have tried to achieve this by hosting events such as the GTI Legal Chances day where students from ethnic minority backgrounds meet lawyers who can act as role models and give a real insight into what working at a City firm means. Many lawyers are also involved in mentoring schemes where students work with a solicitor who can offer advice and encouragement. Graduate recruiters also spend a lot of time on campus running skills sessions from commercial awareness to interview skills.

But firms can only recruit those who are already at, or have been to, university. As a result there is now a focus on early engagement with school students, raising the aspirations of people just like you who may have never considered university or a legal career. At this year's Target 10,000 events, thousands of year 12 students received invaluable advice on applying to top universities. They also had the chance to meet 10 of the City's top law firms to find out more about the opportunities university can open up. And the CRAC Legal Eagles event brought together students from schools across London who worked with graduate recruiters and trainees from City firms to dispel the myths around a legal career.

The events mentioned above are just a very small example of what law firms are doing to increase diversity amongst their people, but we'd like to challenge you to help with this. If you have ever thought that you'd be interested in law but it just isn't for someone like you, or been put off by stereotypes, then take the time to come and meet us at some of our events and find out for yourselves if your first impressions are right. You'll probably be surprised at what you find.

Paula Quinton-Jones is the graduate recruitment officer at Allen & Overy LLP

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + + uncapped commission + benefits: SThree: Did you ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + benefits + uncapped commission: SThree: Did you kn...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Web Developer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road