updated on 14 September 2021
As a Black woman I know only too well how difficult it can be to make it in the legal profession. I am testament to what can be achieved but unfortunately, I remain in the minority. There are too few lawyers who look like me and wider still, too few lawyers who look like the population they serve; that must change.
Our legal profession and justice system sets the tone at the highest level on fairness and equal representation for all those in our society. Its composition should reflect that and yet the lack of social mobility we see is stark, and the profession is poorer for it.
A report published by the Legal Services Board last year referenced that “the pace of progress needs to rapidly accelerate to ensure that the legal profession at all levels reflects the diversity of the communities it serves”. There was, it found, “deep-seated inertia” hindering change.
CILEX – CPQ
This is one of the drivers behind the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) offering a raft of scholarships to help accelerate that change.
CILEX has been the only route to qualifying as a lawyer without requiring a degree for more than 50 years. Through the CILEX Foundation, it is now making scholarships worth £12,500 available to those from disadvantaged backgrounds to study to become a lawyer via its new CILEX Professional Qualification (CPQ). It has committed £275,000 to fund 22 scholarships annually.
CILEX Foundation’s targeted scholarship programme will cover the training costs of becoming a fully qualified CILEX Lawyer, as well as the opportunity to network and learn from thousands of like-minded legal professionals who, like me, have benefited from the CILEX route.
To be eligible for a CILEX Lawyer Scholarship applicants must demonstrate that their finances and circumstances mean it is challenging for them to access a legal education. Support will be targeted at those who are underrepresented in the legal profession and/or from a socially disadvantaged background.
Eligible groups include young carers, those with a protected characteristic, as defined by the Equality Act 2010 (such as Black, Asian and other ethnic minority students), those in previous receipt of free school meals or a history of being in care.
Millicent Grant scholarships
I am delighted to report that some of those scholarships have been made available in my name for candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. With the launch of the Millicent Grant scholarships, I want to encourage disadvantaged people everywhere to put aside any perceptions you might have about a legal career being out of reach. There are more and more successful lawyers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds reaching the top of the profession.
Improving the profession
I feel strongly that we must encourage students who may never have thought the law was for them to realise that there is an accessible and affordable route to qualification. By doing so, we can transform the provision of legal services and improve access to justice.
I’ve worked in the profession for more than 40 years. I was inspired to become a lawyer by my barrister uncle who came to the UK from Jamaica. After entering the profession as a legal secretary in the 1970s and qualifying with CILEX, I have gone on to enjoy a career in both private practice and in-house for a number of public sector organisations.
In 2017, I became the first person from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background to lead a legal professional membership body when I was inaugurated as president of CILEX. In 2020, I was made an honorary QC for making a major contribution to the law of England and Wales, outside practice in the courts.
A successful career in the law is not out of reach. Dedicated individuals can succeed in the profession regardless of their personal circumstances. Developing the brightest future talent from all backgrounds will make the UK legal sector more efficient, more representative and better serve society.
Students interested in becoming a lawyer through CILEX and applying for a Millicent Grant QC Scholarship should visit the CILEX foundation page.
The application closing date is Tuesday 28 September 2021.
Visit LCN’s Diversity Hub for information on what law firms, chambers and legal education providers are doing to remove existing barriers and work towards a more diverse and inclusive profession.
Millie Grant QC is an honorary QC with more than 30 years post-qualification experience in the public, corporate in house and private business sectors.