Law School students, staff and alumni

Initiatives discussed at Portsmouth Law School to tackle lack of diversity and social mobility in the legal profession

  • 14 April 2020
  • 5 min read

There is a notable lack of diversity and social mobility in the legal profession, which is why law students, staff, alumni and solicitors gathered at the University of Portsmouth before the coronavirus lockdown to discuss initiatives to improve this issue.

Conrad Adam, partner with City law firm Wedlake Bell, and Caroline Strevens, Head of the University’s Law School, led the discussion. They were joined by current law students, alumni and trainee solicitors, as well as representatives from Wedlake Bell’s HR department. 

A state school education should be no barrier to a career in law.

Caroline Strevens, Head of the University’s Law School

Mrs Strevens said: “Despite much publicity and many reports and working parties, it is depressing to compare the data on diversity and social mobility in the most recent Law Society statistics on the diversity of the legal profession with reports published by the Legal Services Board in 2010. 

“The 2018 Law Society report indicates growing numbers of BAME solicitors on the roll but it has only reached 16.9 per cent. The UK’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission claim that around 70 per cent jobs at elite law firms go to applicants from private or fee paying schools.”

“Many students at Portsmouth are from state schools and are also the first in their family to go to University.  Having little to no contacts within the legal profession, there are many unknown-unknowns for this group of prospective solicitors.”

The group exchanged ideas about perceived obstacles to a job in a City law firm and they developed plans to launch a summer school for first year students. Alumni also offered support to current students to help them with networking, confident speaking, internship applications and professional letter writing.

They also discussed an interesting statistic shared by Mr Adam that indicates 75 per cent of the top 10 per cent of performers in law firms went to state school.

Mrs Strevens said: “A state school education should be no barrier to a career in law. Our students have such potential and we look forward to continuing to help them unlock it and to have confidence in themselves.”

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