Browne Jacobson launches mentoring scheme to support aspiring Black lawyers

updated on 08 April 2024

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Full-service law firm Browne Jacobson LLP has officially launched its REACH (Race, Equality and Cultural Heritage) mentoring programme, offering 20 aspiring Black lawyers the chance to kickstart their career in the legal profession.

The launch comes after a two-year pilot, which “delivered exceptional results”, providing support to 25 aspiring lawyers – 16 of whom went on to secure employment within the firm.

According to the most recent diversity statistics reported by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, only 3% of lawyers are Black. As such, REACH aims to address this disproportionate underrepresentation of Black lawyers working in UK law firms by growing, nurturing and creating a sustainable pipeline of future Black talent.

Acknowledging the many barriers that “prevent individuals from underrepresented communities, particularly those of African and Caribbean heritage, from pursuing a career in law” Bridget Tatham, partner at Browne Jacobson and REACH programme sponsor, said: “We know this is a problem that needs to be addressed, and as a business we are committed to building an inclusive and diverse pipeline of talent, where Black lawyers are not only provided with a level playing field but are equipped with tools and interventions to place them on an equitable and just footing with their peers. We want to provide opportunities for talented individuals of African and Caribbean heritage to thrive in their legal careers.”

The six-month programme includes a two-week work experience placement at one of the firm’s offices and mentorship from a member of the firm or one of its partners. The mentors will share their skills, knowledge and insights to help those on the scheme understand what it’s really like to work in the law.

Tatham adds: “By officially launching the programme and collaborating with clients that are market leaders in their sectors, the aim is to scale up to further increase the positive impact we can achieve.”

After the scheme’s first pilot in March 2022, the proportion of Black trainees at the firm has increased from 0% in 2016 to 31% in 2023 and 29% in 2024. On top of designing and launching the programme, the firm has also conducted an audit of its recruitment processes to identify where applicants from Black backgrounds fall down. To create a fairer playing field, the firm introduced changes to the recruitment process, such as:

  • anonymising training contract and apprenticeship applications;
  • removing grade requirements;
  • implementing a contextualised recruitment system; and
  • introducing a second-look policy.

The scheme reinforces Browne Jacobson’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and becomes the latest DE&I initiative developed by the firm.

As well as being ranked the top law firm in the Social Mobility Employer Index, Browne Jacobson also runs its FAIRE (Fairer Access into Real Experience) scheme, which provides in-person and virtual work experience opportunities to candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Since 2021, FAIRE has engaged more than 30,500 students aged between 16 and 19.