Social mobility in law
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What is social mobility?
‘Social mobility’ is the definition given to the movement of groups of individuals or families through social statuses.
Why is it important?
Statistics have shown that 50% of leaders in major professions (including law) were privately educated, despite making up only 7% of the general population. Children from private schools are more likely to leave with better qualifications; however, children who perform outstandingly when compared to the average grades of their school – in comparison to privately educated children – may be overlooked. This is what social mobility initiatives aim to change. They aim to bridge the difference between people that come from a higher class and people from poorer socio-economic backgrounds by comparing them proportionately.
Why is it relevant to law?
The legal profession has a reputation (which luckily is changing) of being elitist, and there are still concerns about whether money and privilege will have a significant influence on an individual’s legal future. However, law firms are starting to see that there are some bright candidates who have performed exceptionally compared to their peers but are struggling to get a foot in the door because, for example, they do not have the right connections or have the ‘wrong’ accent. Fortunately, this is beginning to change with social mobility initiatives. You may have seen Rare’s contextual recruitment questions being used in applications. These questions help to put achievements in context – and it works. Firms are 50% more likely to hire students from disadvantaged backgrounds using the Rare system. It can give employers an idea of how you are performing relevant to your situation. It is not professional to delve into your life story on a job application, but sometimes there are important factors that have had a detrimental impact, or exceptional adversity that you have overcome, which a potential employer should consider with your application.
How can it help me?
A quick Google search will bring up many programmes and events open to people from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. If you have never been around business professionals, then it may be daunting to walk into a law firm and network with people that seem like they are from a different world to the one that you grew up in! These events bring together people who are in similar positions and by attending them, your confidence will grow as you build valuable networks. Many law firms have dedicated social mobility committees or groups that aim to build inclusive working environments and meeting people from these groups at events is a great way to hear what the firms are doing to become more inclusive. It is also a great opportunity to seek guidance or mentoring from people who have been in similar situations and have entered the legal profession.
How can I give back?
If you have successfully managed to secure a training contract or pupillage or are qualified, there are lots of organisations working to increase diversity that welcome mentors. Alumni mentoring is also a great way to guide future lawyers and give something back to your university.