Access to the legal profession must be open and fair and the barriers that may deter talented individuals through our social mobility initiatives should be broken down.  The wider legal community must ensure that prospective students are not deterred from studying law or pursuing a career in law if they are not from wealthy or privileged backgrounds.

The graduate recruitment teams in law firms across the City are on the frontline when it comes to tackling any firm’s aim to promote social inclusion and fairness.

This is where a tool such as the Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) could make a difference.

Our member firms are working with Rare Recruitment (Rare) to implement the use of Rare’s CRS within the graduate recruitment process.  In fact our member firms Ashurst, Hogan Lovells, Baker McKenzie, and Herbert Smith Freehills were one of the first official Social Mobility Pioneer firms

Raph Mokades, Managing Director, Rare Recruitment commented, “Their joining is a sign that the legal industry is taking a lead on addressing diversity and social mobility in the City and the UK”.

CRS enables the recruitment team to compare applicants fairly by measuring relative disadvantage along with performance.  A number of contextual data points are picked up and shared with Rare through CRS, such as postcode, examination grades, whether the applicant was looked after, or first in their immediate household to go to university, and their education history.  By using this information, the team can put a candidate’s grades into context. For example, their A-Level grades could indicate they actually overachieved compared to the average student at their school or to someone with the same grades from a better resourced school in a less economically disadvantaged location.

Sunny Mann, Partner, Baker McKenzie commented, “We have been committed to opening our doors to talented individuals from all backgrounds for many years.  The introduction of Rare’s CRS system enables us to take a variety of complex social factors in to account, and we’re beginning to reap the awards.  Many talented young individuals who may not have made it through our recruitment process previously are now receiving training contract offers and are joining us as traineesThese efforts have particularly allowed us to also increase the BAME talent coming into our pipeline”.

Currently, 32 legal, banking and professional services firms use CRS and it is hoped that more will sign up over time.  However, getting candidates from a socially disadvantaged background to apply in the first place is something that is being worked on continuously.

Mark Bardell, Herbert Smith Freehills’ Lead Graduate Recruitment Partner, added, “Herbert Smith Freehills is proud to have been involved in the Rare Contextual Recruitment Working Group from the very beginning and having fully integrated the system with our ATS we have really seen it prove its value.  We are keen to level the playing field for candidates and ensure that we are hiring the very best talent in the market, irrespective of background”.

Cheryl Evans, Ashurst’s lead on graduate recruitment, commented, “The tool is an excellent way of making you think hard about what exactly it is we are measuring – too much emphasis has been put on grades for too long, and too  much potential has been overlooked because of it”.

In addition to CRS, our member firms are undertaking a number of other initiatives to ensure that everyone has access to the legal profession such as bursaries.

Louise Lamb, Hogan Lovells Graduate Recruitment Partner commented, “Bursaries are the wings that let excellence take flight and we are pleased to be supporting promising law students who, without additional financial support, may find the prospect of studying law daunting”.

As more work is put into the programmes each year, the talent pipeline will continue to grow.