social mobility decreasing in city law

I have a theory about social mobility at city law firms. I think it is decreasing year on year

Anecdotally the last five trainees we have had have all been southern, white, privately educated or grammar school educated, and very well off

They were all straight out of uni/GDL/LPC but bought houses/flats in London at the start of their training contract - so basically funded by bank of mum and dad. All bought outright too not shared ownership.

Obviously not their fault in any way, and it makes sense to buy if you can but all a bit depressing tbh

What are other people's experiences and thoughts though? Happy to be proved wrong (ie might be my firm that is unique in hiring posh people)

Agree. In process of leaving the profession. Once you get your foot out of law you realise what a weird world it is and how normal everything else is. 

patron - sorry to hear. where are you headed if able to say?

Agree with this.

1 year PQE in my team. Very nice, very able, very hardworking. Just bought flat for around £800k.

Virtually no obviously working class kids in the last few intakes, at least not that I've met, although to be fair, I am judging that purely by accent, dress sense and (very importantly) hairdo rather than any actual knowledge of background.

Totally the opposite over in mid-town law these days.  I’m in a very small minority having been privately educated.

Outside of the city I think law has become a much more egalitarian world. Very few criminal defence bods are private educated, immigration law seems to be almost exclusively run by Asians, PI again very few people you’d say are from particularly privileged backgrounds. 

I would agree. I think it’s harder to break into most professions than it was 20 years ago.
 
Of course the tuition fees are going to stop people from lower socio economic off going to uni, if your parents earn £15k a year that amount of money seems vast - no matter that you only pay it back when you you are earning Etc etc it doesn’t matter it’s still going to be off putting. So then the only people coming through for TCs/big 4/bank grad schemes etc are well off to start with. 

I know several very senior people (not lawyers) who left school at 16 or 18, I’d like to know in 30 years how many COOs, CEOs, CFOs etc of the future are leaving school after GCSEs and A levels and end up getting to the same positions
I feel like that door has shut even if university has become more pointless. 
 

The house thing is just so galling - just gives you such a leg up in life,  not scrimping and saving through your twenties (and beyond often) and having more time for money to grow and stability  of your own home. I’m very jealous. 
 

Though to be quite frank if I was going to get an 800k house bought for me I would probably pick a fun career where I earnt less because I didn’t need to.

My law degree was mainly state school kids (although many were very middle class).

Would be interested to know what percentage of non-law grad trainees were state educated. Must be very low percentage.

I think with the posher non-law grads, law is often viewed as one of many graduate careers, to be considered in the graduate milkround along with banking and accountancy as a post-grad thing. If they don't get a City law job, they don't do law (very sensible approach IMHO - would advise school leavers to take exactly that approach).

State school kids tend to know virtually nothing about non-law route into law, particularly City law. That leaves the working class law grads to fill the lower-paid law jobs.

I think a lot more professions will go the way of accountancy taking school leavers so there will be lots of senior people with no degrees.  If I had my time again I’d go from school to surveying or accountancy apprenticeship.

There's no way I would miss out uni if I had my time again. I would take more time out before starting work, but wouldn't skip uni.

Law firms just don't and never have really cared about social mobility. Why would they? It's just like mental health week/awareness. Throw in a few webinars and talks, hand out some flyers for counselling services and put some free fruit next to the coffee machine to promote health and well-being. It's all virtue signalling. I was once at large international firm and the managing partner suggested that his law undergraduate daughter (an aspiring lawyer) came in to give a talk to the social mobility work placement students about studying law...a complete contradiction! It's all too much time and effort for them and makes the legal profession massively undiverse and always has and always will be 

I agree Jamie, but I don't think it's a recent phenomenon; rather, I think that we're all idealistic when we're younger, and as we age we notice the disconnect between idealism and reality. That's certainly my experience. I grew up in Northern England, went to a state school, and had a highly unusual path to where I am now, including elocution lessons to largely eradicate my accent. I now work with exponentially more Aussies and Kiwis than I do Northerners/other working class Brits.

Specifically, on law firm recruitment, law firms care about*:

1. Serving clients.

2. Partners’ profits.

3. Associates’ career development (not for selfless reasons, but to enable (1) and (2)).

(* per David Maister's Managing the Professional Service Firm)

Everything else is marketing spin. The so-called “business case for diversity” is largely fictional, i.e. motivated reasoning. You don't need an Englishman, and Irishman and a Welshman to best litigate a FIDIC contract or an ISDA Master Agreement, you just need the best people selected on merit: primarily intellect and qualifications. Pretending otherwise is however a useful tool for those seeking to damage their competitors and seize control of limited resources (i.e. certain jobs - not the unattractive ones like bin men, carpenters, welders, electricians, taxi drivers, etc. of course, though).

Apart for the occasional woke warrior, such as the Coke GC who was sacked recently after attempting to impose actively racist policies on panel firms (www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/coke-gc-resigns-12m-after-radical-diversity-plan-bombs), typical City client’s don’t care about diversity. It’s never part of any of our pitch decks, and it’s never been an area on which we’ve been questioned when we’re instructed. Clients care about our firms' success, and our partners' relevant experience.

Accordingly, most firms will recruit candidates based on academic merit, ignoring diversity (except for some highly-publicised examples). Due to assortative mating and parental investment, this is likely to be Tarquin, not Tyler, William not Billy, James not Jim, etc. Social mobility has always been a myth. The post-WWII expansion of the middle class was a function of the post-war boom, not a more meritocratic society. Two good articles are https://capx.co/is-social-mobility-beyond-the-governments-control and https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/the-social-mobility-trap-education-schools-equality-jobs-work. There was also an excellent Radio 4 podcast on this back in 2015, which is only 30 mins long, but which concisely made a compelling  case: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b052hvhn.

To be clear, I'm describing, not defending, what I perceive to be reality, however unpalatable. I've long since ceased believing that I can change the world, I just want to understand it, so I can best survive it.

There's no way I would miss out uni if I had my time again. I would take more time out before starting work, but wouldn't skip uni.
 

Yeah I agree. A good degree from a good university remains the best chance most young people have to improve their prospects in life.

Is this not just because everyone’s realised what a dire thing to do for a living “city law” is, and the only people who’ll even consider it these days are people who are being pushed into it by their parents? I’d despair if my kids wanted to be Citygits

I doubt it Laz. Probably has more to do with the eye-watering wages paid to city NQs.

god I’d rather die than be a city lawyer

Interesting take Mountain, I personally believe there's a lot to be said for a diversity of background in any team.

 

The team I'm currently in has extremely good racial diversity but I'm the only fee earner with kids under 22 years old. It's very difficult to play on a level playing field with someone five years younger who can actually do. 12 hour solid block or work without having to go home to do daycare pick up and bed. I'm sure Lydia managed but I can't, and that's why I'm looking to leave and go in house.

When I do go they'll lose the only person who knows how to change a nappy. Which of course will be a great loss for the team. 

But as you said, they don't really care because it's all about bums on seats for as many chargeable hours as possible.

It wouldn’t surprise me in some areas to see the return of articles, where parents explicitly have to pay to have their offspring trained for a career.    In current woke times, it wouldn’t work in consumer-facing industries.  But it is more or less the situation in hedge funds, and private banking, and some sections of the arts, and fashion industries.

It would be driven by the time and effort, and risk taken on, required before new entrants can do anything commercially useful (this in turn driven by the ever-rising complexities of even common tasks, the automation of basic tasks where apprentices previously used to gain experience, and the decline in educational standards).

er, that would surprise me very much m88, very much indeed

 It takes time and effort to recruit good people.  It's actually much better to look beyond "oh, A stars from RGS Whatever / MPS and Russell group".  You end up with better people and better teams.  At my firm we do that and end up with properly diverse teams in terms of educational and ethnic background at junior level.  But you have to interview more people.   You can't sift brutally on CV.  It takes effort. 

Most firms want to do this, I think.  But their efforts founder on the reality. 

For that reason perhaps we struggle to recruit for diverse teams at 4+ years.

 

Mountain, I can assure you it will be of interest to clients even in a 3 year timeframe. 

There is no way in hell I’d have taken on £50,000 worth of debt to do a law degree. I was terrified by the £4000 of student loan I had back in the 90s. 

Also, seems to me that most of the bigger firms now only take from a list of 5 universities. I admittedly pissed about at school (*shrugs* it was rough) and ended up doing my a levels a few years later at the local technical college while I was working nights in a warehouse. Not the ideal way to prepare and my a levels weren’t world class as a result. In short, there was no way I’d get into a top 5 university.

I was lucky. Someone took a punt on me because they could see I wasn’t a complete arsehole and had some sort of a work ethic. But I’m in no doubt my original CV would be shredded by 99% of recruitment these days.

 

 

some law firms do care about it. Not because they are altruistic but because they have come to realise (or experience) that a lot of clients expect it. We are in a diverse world and client's are diverse and expect to see that reflected in their advisors. They don't want a panel pitch comprising 5 white 50 year old men. 

In terms of background (and wealth / class) this is much harder, because those with money can be better educated, and better education means better opportunity. When it comes to the interview with the law firm, the recruiting partner / HR looks at what is in front of them in terms of talent. But to get in front of them requires good grades, a good application form (and those with a wealthier background are more likely to be surrounded by people who can help them), a good mentor (who can explain how you might get to where you want to be). Conduct at interview then comes into it - practice (with people who know what firms are looking for), confidence (in a formal environment) come from exposure to situations like this which are more easily created / experienced if you have people around you that understand the process. 

If you put economic barriers in the way of entry to a profession, the pool who are able to take on the risk of clearing those barriers will be materially reduced. 

That goes for tuition fees, GDL fees, LPC fees and cost of living while undertaking those requirements. 

The problem is access to the profession. 

There is most certainly a class/wealth divide but it starts in the education system not qualified level. 
A “good” education leads to red brick universities and training in London firms, this has always been the case; generally  the rest go  to a former poly or otherwise newer university  and end up outside London and/or legal aid. We all know this.

 

What Minkie and Parsnip said. This isn’t some issue that city law firms have because they’re all stuck in the 1970s. In fact many are keen to move away from it for client optics reasons - it’s the fact that the most prospective lawyers with good academics tend to be from educated middle class families. 

And totally disagree with what Patron said above. If you think that outside law you’re going to find sunny uplands where everyone from different educational backgrounds muck in merrily you are much mistaken. In all the investment companies I’ve worked for the people at management level have been middle/upper class educated people. Or at property/construction companies who I work with a lot - working class white fifty somethings from Surrey/Kent/Essex. 

Diversity of class and educational background is a great aspiration but it is so vague and complex it requires sophistication that most HR teams cannot come close to reaching and we have to be realistic about what is achievable.     

I went to a large, grim, violent inner city comprehensive, had to teach myself some of the subjects and was the only kid to go to Oxbridge.  But apart from a finely honed instinct for not catching the eye of the psychopath on the night bus, I don’t fundamentally contribute to diversity of background.  My parents are clever, hard working people who gave me a stable home where learning was valued and those are the things that dictate most educational outcomes and attitudes, not school or class.  

I agree really. There has been huge emphasis on 'visible' diversity recently (rightly) but social-economic diversity is still non existent in city law.

It is very rare I am in a room where I am not the only person from a working class background. And I think trainee intakes are getting less and less diversity in that sense. 

I’ve worked with people who on paper were super intelligent but had no common sense or practicality.  I’d much rather work with people who have lower grades but who can understand that their genius way round the problem is totally impractical and will be laughed at by a client.

There may be an elect of self selection with city law - the middle middle class that dominate are taught to be very money motivated and expect a certain lifestyle only city law is likely to provide,  other classes may be more drawn to areas of law they can relate to more with less wish or expectation of megabucks

Guy you think the middle classes are more drawn to megabucks than lower socio economic  classes? Sorry I don’t buy that for a minute! 

And people who really want mega bucks go to banking or increasingly tech companies.

mountain

the prospect article is interesting and thought-provoking albeit falls short in proposing solutions for creating more and better jobs. one would have thought perhaps vocational schools might have been mentioned.

the capx article is a restatement of trickle-down economics which is much discredited and missing the point - it almost doesn’t matter if the bottom 50% of society see income rise by 0.5% over the past 3 decade, you will still get unrest and revolution if the top 1% of society see income rise by 500% etc.

I’ve worked with people who on paper were super intelligent but had no common sense or practicality.  I’d much rather work with people who have lower grades but who can understand that their genius way round the problem is totally impractical and will be laughed at by a client.

about 1/3 barristers I know

Guy you think the middle classes are more drawn to megabucks than lower socio economic  classes? Sorry I don’t buy that for a minute! 

I am talking specifically about the sort of people that choose to become lawyers.  I am lower middle class and sort of fell into City Law by accident, but my expectations are not privately educating kids luxury holidays and a large house in Surrey because I didn't grow up with them so was quite happy to move on (or down some would say) to do work I found more interesting less stressful  but for far less money.  Lots of my contemporaries from wealthier backgrounds felt they would have failed if they didnt achieve a certain lifestyle they grew up with.

Ok get that but it can swing both ways no? Know a fair few people who aspire to exactly those things (pillared house in Surrey, expensive day schools, Maldives holidays) precisely because they never had them. Conversely a few who grew up in that environment and therefore have a natural disdain for it. 

true wilfred, but I dont think the very materialistic go getting type people from poorer backgrounds see law as their route to riches.  Law attracts a different type, diligent, risk averse more likely to be content to replicate or only modestly improve on their own background

That is an interesting comment, Guy. I am from a solid middle class background (Dr C Snr was a consultant). I feel it is important to do "better" for example have a better house than I grew up in, more frequent and more luxurious holidays, etc. It is bloody hard to do that now compared to the 80s/90s. I've had to leave the South East to even attempt to do anything like it. 

Hopefully things will improve a bit with Chimp joining the Bar.

Yes moving from the working class egalitarian doctor profession will show the bar what is possible. 

What's especially troubling is that the privately educated form that are likely to apply for UK graduate jobs form a far smaller % of the cohort than ever as many foreigners in private schools will go back to their countries of origin to work. 

Law firms are basically class snobs or right on types that think we must have more of this type of person here. There's plenty of ethnic minority public school alumni in law firms. The way people talk about apprentices is quite frankly disgusting as there is always an implied "these people aren't good enough", despite much of their lack of skills being attributable to legal supervisors not having any formal training, and many not having any ability, to train people properly. 

The problem is the govt never cures the problem, which is that state schools don't have the resources to lift everyone up. They could do all kinds of things to cure this:

- 25% tax on school fees, or 50% for overseas students on school and university fees

- free university education for the top 20% of non-private/grammar students, and for all free school meals pupils

- Hard cap on privately educated places on undergraduate courses

- gift aid permitted to all state schools in deprived areas or failing schools that can be spent on core services

- means tested levy on parent catchment shopping

- 8-6 school availability for vulnerable children 

25% tax on school fees AGREED, or 50% for overseas students on school and university fees NOT AGREED AS MANY UNIS WOULD GO BUST - WOULD NEED GOV BAILOUT

- free university education for the top 20% of non-private/grammar students, and for all free school meals pupils AGREED

- Hard cap on privately educated places on undergraduate courses AGREED ALBEIT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AS HEADTEACHERS OF WINCHESTER, ETON, CHELTENHAM LADIES ETC WILL SCREAM ABOUT THE INJUSTICE

- gift aid permitted to all state schools in deprived areas or failing schools that can be spent on core services AGREED

- means tested levy on parent catchment shopping AGREED ALTHOUGH TOUGH TO STOP IN PRACTICE - LIKE TAX AVOIDANCE - I IMAGINE A LOT OF FAMILIES WILL SUDDENLY BECOME SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES ON PAPER

- 8-6 school availability for vulnerable children - AGREED

agree social mobility is not improving and may in fact be getting worse

I suspect student fees have a lot to do with it

also, some firms definitely seem to recruit people who look and sound like younger versions of the partnership, I suspect because they think that is what their clients expect 

A former senior partner of Linklaters was of the view that university grades were useless for choosing future lawyers.  He worked in Moscow for a while and said he came across great lawyers there who couldn't get a foot in the door in the City because they didn't have the grades.  Conversely in London he worked with terrible lawyers with excellent grades.  Sadly twenty years ago he couldn't talk anyone else round to his very sensible point of view.

Law attracts the plodders and I'm one of them. We want to be reasonably well paid but without taking much risk and in a job that comes with reasonable job security.  We are happy to be the back room people and generally don't feel the need to stand out.  The more flamboyant types who want to take risks go to banking and the like.

As for wanting to do better than your parents I think that is a working class thing.  In many respects I would really struggle to do better than my parents and certainly my grandfather so it's not something I worry about and I'm just focused on getting through life in a way that leaves me reasonably happy.

- Hard cap on privately educated places on undergraduate courses AGREED ALBEIT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AS HEADTEACHERS OF WINCHESTER, ETON, CHELTENHAM LADIES ETC WILL SCREAM ABOUT THE INJUSTICE

Actually they won't say much because their pupils are already being headhunted by US universities and the like so don't particularly need UK universities.  The US are also offering them scholarships and deals so it's cheaper than going to uni here.

former senior partner of Linklaters was of the view that university grades were useless for choosing future lawyers.  He worked in Moscow for a while and said he came across great lawyers there who couldn't get a foot in the door in the City because they didn't have the grades.  Conversely in London he worked with terrible lawyers with excellent grades.  Sadly twenty years ago he couldn't talk anyone else round to his very sensible point of view.

During my training contract I worked under two partners who went to polytechnics in Manchester in Leicester in the late 90s. Non MC or SC, but still a City firm. They both bill northwards of 1.5 million a year each as heads of departments.

One of them is involved in graduate recruitment to the farm and openly admits that with his university background he would not have stood a chance now.

The other, funnily enough, recently bought a pied a terre in London - a one bed new build near the river for the week in a nice area (he went home home for the weekend). When he moved in, he got the shock of his life, when he went out the door and immediately bumped into the NQ in his team who had bought the flat opposite with help from BOMAD! Says it all really re social mobility.

Actually they won't say much because their pupils are already being headhunted by US universities and the like so don't particularly need UK universities.  The US are also offering them scholarships and deals so it's cheaper than going to uni here.

I have seen this to an extent but the vast majority still go to UK universities so we will see

Very good points.

No one has mentioned the SQE new exam system starting this Autumn. It might however result in a divide between those who do good courses, all SQE exams before training and 2 years training at good firm v. the others who have 4 stints of pretty useless voluntary work or photocopying they persuaded someone to sign off as QWE.

 

On student fees it has never been as easy financially to get to university if you are badly off  - one man even used his student loan to fund his travel to fight for ISIS. The less well off your parents the greater your maintenance grant and you never pay a penny back unless you earn over £25k a year etc etc... So if very very bright children from poor backgrounds cannot do a google search to work out what they might earn and what they might have to pay back I am not sure it is fair to blame the system. Labour regards the student loans system as one of its big achievements.

 

If we made some of the changes above about helping the brightest at grammar schools we would need to offer grammars around the UK. In Newcastle where I grew up they abolished them in about 1970.

what nihil dikit said. 
 

plus - crypto - it must be exhausting feeling that you have to do “better” than your parents no? if your dad was a consultant in say the ‘70s ‘80s he probably- relatively speaking- was paid very well? plus had/had a gold plated pension? as well as being one rung down from God in his department a la James Robertson Justice in Doctor in The House!

My old man was a partner in Arthur Andersen from 1986 until it all went tits up, when he was one of the top bods in Europe. Regardless of the fact that it all went tits up, the idea that I could out coin him in the legal industry now is utter laughable.

 

But I don't care. I've realised that there is a lot more to life than out coining your parents.

I do think that there are steps that organisations can take to promote social mobility, but they only work if there is a critical mass

For example, my shop decided to forbid informal work experience a few years back, but now have two formal work experience schemes excluding the vac scheme. These are promoted across a number of platforms and universities, not just Russell Group. The idea is to try and create a level playing field, as much as possible anyway.

But the way a number of partners deal with inevitable requests from clients for little Tarquin or darling Jemima to get a couple of weeks in the office over the summer/half term is to direct them to their old firms with whom they have a good relationship. I’ve long since lost count of the number of people who have been sent towards Wedlake Bell for instance

Hopefully things will improve a bit with Chimp joining the Bar.
 

Weird snipe m7. FWIW I would describe my class origins as lower-middle - both parents teachers (via vocational training not university). State-educated. My university education was funded with a mixture of student loan, NHS grants and bank finance.

plus - crypto - it must be exhausting feeling that you have to do “better” than your parents no? if your dad was a consultant in say the ‘70s ‘80s he probably- relatively speaking- was paid very well? plus had/had a gold plated pension? as well as being one rung down from God in his department a la James Robertson Justice in Doctor in The House!

Yes he was. He managed to have a non-working wife and two children at private school plus a house in the south east on his NHS pay and private practice. That is just impossible now. He was totally untouchable in his own department and what he said went. I think it will be impossible to have the standard of living he managed and you're right I should just enjoy what I have. 

That's the point I'm trying to make. It's one thing to be doing better than your parents if your old man was foreman at the local factory, or top dog in the local hospital who shagged a nurse who could then quit her job, it's different if your old man came our on top of the middle class spaff fest of bossing professional services/medicine.

 

So don't worry about it. The only thing that matters is if you can afford the things that make you happy enough to tolerate the short amount of time you have on earth. 

Everything else is marketing spin. The so-called “business case for diversity” is largely fictional, i.e. motivated reasoning. You don't need an Englishman, and Irishman and a Welshman to best litigate a FIDIC contract or an ISDA Master Agreement, you just need the best people selected on merit: primarily intellect and qualifications. Pretending otherwise is however a useful tool for those seeking to damage their competitors and seize control of limited resources (i.e. certain jobs - not the unattractive ones like bin men, carpenters, welders, electricians, taxi drivers, etc. of course, though).

Except you don't fully comprehend the job. It's not your ability to litigate a FIDIC contract or an ISDA master agreement that makes you stand out but your ability to network and build client relationships. Those clients you need to relate to come from all sorts of backgrounds. Generally a client will be far more pissed off by you failing to account for Eid in your timings than they will be impressed about your beautiful drafting. There's a base line of intelligence and competence required but beyond that intellect matters far less than you are giving it credit for.

 

 

you just need the best people selected on merit: primarily intellect and qualifications. 

um sorry this does not apply to a huge part of the legal industry

Real Estate and Personal Injury being prime examples

This issue will obviously never change in city law and will continue to get worse.

Just look at the recent partner promotions from several firms. They mention the partners sex and ethnicity (instead of mentioning their ability.....) But never mention their social economic status.

There is, simply, nothing to be gained by city firms increasing social mobility. Clients don't care and it only impacts a tiny portion of staff (which is obviously a very different position to visible diversity).

All diversity is not equal, m7s.

Jamie the stupidity in both of those areas stems from the use of unqualified staff slavishly following checklists.  Ask Optima Legal a question and instead of a straight bespoke answer you get a PDF standard document which covers a range of options and they basically expect you to read it and choose what's right for them to save them having to make a decision.

Ask Optima Legal a question and instead of a straight bespoke answer you get a PDF standard document which covers a range of options and they basically expect you to read it and choose what's right for them to save them having to make a decision.

you work there then m7?

Sails I was also thinking about the commoditised stuff like bull work for lenders in banking and RE

- security reviews of loan books

- certificates of title

all stuff that could be done by lenders but they don’t have PI insurance so they farm it out to firms like Pinsents, AG, CMS, Eversheds etc at rates of £225/hr or thereabouts who throw it at their regional backoffices where it is still largely done by qualified lawyers who fill out precedent docs without really needing much intelligence (albeit a high threshold of boredom is required)

i know because I used to be one of those...

Even now a chunk of that is done by unqualified drones and increasingly by computers and then reviewed later by someone who knows what they're doing.  I've just been introduced to a system that will populate your report on title from the title docs and search results so all you have to do is edit it and then hopefully add some useful insight.

That does explain why the most intelligent person in my intake at my first firm, who is still there and qualified into the real estate team, is still not a partner.

Even now a chunk of that is done by unqualified drones and increasingly by computers and then reviewed later by someone who knows what they're doing.  I've just been introduced to a system that will populate your report on title from the title docs and search results 

SORCERY!!!

- means tested levy on parent catchment shopping

Rather misses the point.  Abolish the grammars and anything approaching the current catchment system.

Massive catchment areas, a proper school bus system and a lottery to determine school rather than proximity.  The issue isn't just cash, you need the parental support from the sharp elbowed middle classes in all of the schools.  The cash for schools will follow if parents can't buy a better education by moving house.

Lots of positives over what it would do to house prices too if it suddenly became a pure question of where you wanted to live without the where you want your kids to go to school element.

I've been part of many dreary discussions with HR about our lack of socio-economic and racial diversity (and social mobility is a major part of that). One of the comments one person made was that the number of ethnic minorities in the profession echoes their proportion in UK society. It does but only if you close your mind to the following:

(1) As a large City of London law firm, our stats are terrible. You can't look at the profession as a whole because ethic minorities are very well represented in immigration and criminal law in urban areas and not represented well in, say, the top 200 largest law firms. If you combine those stats, you filter out the important news that the City is not diverse enough

(2) The population of London is far more diverse than England and Wales as a whole. You can't compare diversity in a large firm in the City to national statistics. You should probably compare them to London population stats only.

Until people work this out, some firms will continue to bury their heads in the stand. There is a well-known and well-meaning organisation (which I won't name) that works to introduce large law firms to potential trainees from less middle-class backgrounds. However, it is quickly apparent that a lot of people who sign up to it and get opportunities from it are in fact middle class and at redbrick unis, etc.

There is a well-known and well-meaning organisation (which I won't name) that works to introduce large law firms to potential trainees from less middle-class backgrounds. However, it is quickly apparent that a lot of people who sign up to it and get opportunities from it are in fact middle class and at redbrick unis, etc.

“Aspiring Solicitors”

This is 10% about race and 90% about class, schooling and socio-economic opportunity. In my time in City law black and asian lawyers were well represented but they were, almost to a man or woman, privately educated.  Who is more out of place in a City law firm, a geezer from Canning Town or Romford or a black man who is, say, educated at a decent grammar school from a lower middle-class background? 

DD - you're absolutely right. Though I think we need to be suspicious of the "BAME" umbrella - some races are better represented than others.

Black people are still generally under-represented in City firms (compared to the number of Black people who live in London), though perhaps largely because they are also under-represented at public/grammar school and Oxbridge.

One can argue that being representative of the community is a moral obligation, and/or that it is good for business.

But you need to define what you mean by community.  The community of clients of a City Law firm aren’t much interested in immigration and criminal law in urban areas. Does the global community needed one quarter of its service professionals to be Chinese?

Tautologically the criterion for what is good for business, is what is good for business.  Unless the court of public opinion sacrifices what is ‘good for business’ to some other value.

Jamie - I've seen quite a few CVs come in through that organisation. Usually straight A grades from a grammar, went to Bristol/Exeter/Warwick or similar and often the person is white, too.

They are the sort of people that don't have problems securing vac scheme placements from large law firms in the first place.

Does beg the question where those candidates who would really benefit from their help go instead.

Elfffi - good point. Currently it's mostly a moral obligation because the vast majority of commercial clients are not going to take business elsewhere if their lawyers aren't diverse enough. It's not a business requirement at the moment. Obviously, the Coke guy wanted to change that dramatically.

there is a good one called strive my trainee is involved in as one of many mentors

the criteria is tighter and they look primarily (as I understand it) at whether or not one’s parents went to university

https://www.striveconsultants.co.uk/about

they match up aspiring solicitors from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds with junior lawyers and trainees in the city, and do coaching in the background as well

there are a number of candidates who had below average A-level results, so found it difficult to get into programmes like aspiring solicitors who cherry pick 

Donald Draper has it.  Without exception, all the BAMEs at the city firm in which I was a partner were real poshos, both domestic and foreign, inc a Nigerian prince and the son of an Indian state first minister.  I pushed back when involved in compiling some diversity stats when they wanted to include the Japanese in the Tokyo office as diversity exemplars - they weren’t a particularly diverse bunch amongst their countrymen (all men).  It is interesting, too, that many above sweep in grammar school boys and girls as being examples of social diversity.  They rarely are, and in my experience, beyond a tranche of partners who came through in the 80s (and so finished school in the 70s when the grammars started to decline), there weren’t that many around, and certainly by the time I stopped the full time law game around 10 years ago, virtually all my trainees and junior assistants were privately educated and from the comments above it seems the trend has continued.

I pushed back when involved in compiling some diversity stats when they wanted to include the Japanese in the Tokyo office as diversity exemplars
 

HEH

Exactly unimog.

What is so galling and tiresome about this whole new racial equality movement / BLM stuff is just how wide of the mark it is and how ineffectual it will be in achieving real social justice. If you really think the lack of working class and middle class black British people in City professional services and financial services firms is due to either open or unspoken racism then you really need to remove your head from your ass. 

The thing is that virtually everyone agrees that racism is bad, it’s very easy to structure your appeal for diversity around that. It is a much harder sell to say that selecting on class background is bad, especially to people who are all of a particular class background.

If you really think the lack of working class and middle class black British people in City professional services and financial services firms is due to either open or unspoken racism then you really need to remove your head from your ass. 

there is an element of race that pervades the education system - lots of research on black boys being perceived as aggressive/violent and being expelled and/or sent to pupil referral units at a much higher rate than those of other ethnicities. that all feeds into employability down the line.

i would agree that when looking at the candidates who apply to City law firms class is on balance a larger contributory factor as is parental involvement and parental education level

the problem is that these things always very messy and impossible to determine quantifiably

race correlates fairly strongly with wealth. while there is an overrepresentation of wealthy ethnic minorities in professional services in the City, the majority of ethnic minorities in the uk are by and large not rich and not posh.

that is obviously no consolation to your white working class boy from Barnsley and the answer is to devise better targeted schemes and recruitment methods that don’t just end up hiring “tim nice but dim” types

Strive Consultants looks interesting, Jamie, and certainly more discerning about prerequisites. DD and Unimog also make good points.

All large firms want to be more diverse. The issue, however, isn't discriminating directly against people for interviews based on race or socio-economic background. That doesn't happen much. Indeed I'd say the situation is much fairer now than 20-odd years ago.

We have BAME junior lawyers but they are far more likely to be paralegals than trainees.

If a prospective trainee or a junior associate has straight A grades and 2:1 from a respectable university, they have a good chance of getting an interview regardless of race or whether they went to Harrow or Grange Hill Comprehensive.

But that's the point.

If you're from a poor socio-economic background (and ethnic minorities are more likely to fall into that bracket), it's going to be a lot harder to get the grades expected. Most don't even achieve the academic pre-requisites to even bother applying to large firms. 

So there are going to be many more middle class candidates. On a related note, public school kids can also be better prepared for interview and that helps them later in life. My school used to heavily coach pupils for Oxbridge interviews, for instance. If you've ever interviewed prospective trainees in recent years, many are so slick, so well-prepared and rehearsed. Woe betide if you're less equipped to understand what to expect at assessment centres and interviews, which is hopefully where AS or Strive can come in. AS and Strive can't, however, solve the issue of weaker academics (and indeed both require good grades for candidates to qualify) thus meaning that those on their books are effectively the cream of the state school brigade. And big law firms are always very happy to take on those individuals.

The question is how far law firms will go to offset the academic disadvantage. There is Rare Recruitment which offers a grade handicapping system based on school but I don't know know how much of an impact it is having in real terms in increasing the number of people from poorer backgrounds being taken on.

Yes, aspiring solicitors is a well-meaning organisation  and if an aspiring solicitor can get into their mentroing programmes then they will be well placed for training contract applications, but their entrance criteria is too broad and vague to do any real good for those who actually need a step up from their current circumstances.

For example, at an open day at a city firm last year, I was on a table with two guys who were very well to do, Russell group universities but gone in because they were gay (not that im discounting any personal experiences they had because of their sexual orientation). That was broadly the majority of the open day cohort, very few working class people there.

The better organisations which I made use of were Rare Recruitment and Strive. They had a strict criteria wrt to social mobility and were very useful and helpful on the application journey.

What Member says about interview preparedness is key.  And this feeds into the conscious or unconscious “people like us” mindset, which affects both what interviewers think about people they would like to work with, and how they perceive what their clients want.  The difference between a genuinely working class kid and his or her smoothly assured, confident middle/upper middle class counterpart in the environment of a City law firm is palpable.  And it takes a lot to overcome it.  Despite being very alive to it myself (local comp, first generation university, drifting into city law from a law dept that, in the mid-80s, had a handful of brochures which included only L&P and A&O of the now Magic Circle - the Legal 500 was yet to come), time and again I was gulled by a smooth and oozing confidence which, when scratched by the reality of real life intellectual and client demands was often left wanting.  But there was no doubt that these young people were often very effective at networking and getting along with their counterparts in banks and PE houses who had a similar background to themselves, and this was good for business.

Assertion above: >"There is an element of race that pervades the education system - lots of research on black boys being perceived as aggressive/violent and being expelled and/or sent to pupil referral units at a much higher rate than those of other ethnicities. that all feeds into employability down the line."

With respect, this is a typical metropolitan liberal opinion formed in a factual vacuum. It it usually caused by reading The Guardian and The New York Times (I'm not being sarcastic - in a digital era, both papers' survival now rely on indulging the religion of their woke audiences, and never tainting "The Narrative" with facts.). Assertions such as the ones above make white people saying them feel virtuous, but what they are saying is simply incorrect and beyond their selfish desire to feel good, it actually harms real black children living their lives in the real world. To insist that bigotry is the only possible reason for suspending more black boys than white boys is to espouse harm to black student victims.

The problem is better documented in the US, to which I therefore refer. Both Heather MacDonald and John McWhorter have analysed this issue; the former for well over a decade, and the latter as recently as only a couple of months ago:

 

[...] the Departments of Education and Justice have launched a campaign against disproportionate minority discipline rates, which show up in virtually every school district with significant numbers of black and Hispanic students. [...] The Department of Education has launched investigations of at least five school systems because of their disparate black-white discipline rates. The Department of Justice has already put the Barnwell, South Carolina, school district under a costly consent decree, complete with a pricey outside consultant, and is seeking similar control of other districts. The theory behind this school discipline push is what Obama officials and civil rights advocates call the “school-to-prison pipeline.” According to this conceit, harsh discipline practices—above all, suspensions—strip minority students of classroom time, causing them to learn less, drop out of school, and eventually land in prison. [...] The feds have reached their conclusions, however, without answering the obvious question: Are black students suspended more often because they misbehave more?
[...]
 Between September 2011 and February 2012, 25 times more black Chicago students than white ones were arrested at school, mostly for battery; black students outnumbered whites by four to one. (In response to the inevitable outcry over the arrest data, a Chicago teacher commented: “I feel bad for kids being arrested, . . . but I feel worse seeing a kid get his head smashed on the floor and almost die. Or a teacher being threatened with his life.”) [...] Nationally, the picture is no better. The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly ten times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined. [...] the St. Paul public school system has been on a mission to lower the black suspension rate, following complaints by local activists and black parents. A highly regarded principal lost his job because his school had “too many” suspensions of black second- and fourth-graders. [...] Benner sees the consequences of this anti-discipline push nearly every day in the worsening behavior of students. He overheard a fifth-grade boy tell a girl: “Bitch, I’ll fook you and suck you.” [...] The boy’s teacher told Benner that she felt powerless to punish the misbehavior. “This will be one of my black men who ends up in prison after raping a woman,” observes Benner. Racist? Many would so characterize the comment. But Benner is black himself—and fed up with the excuses for black misbehavior.

The Obama administration undermines classroom order in pursuit of phantom racism, City Journal, Summer 2012, Heather MacDonald, https://www.city-journal.org/html/undisciplined-13485.html

A federal commission on school safety has repudiated the use of disparate-impact analysis in evaluating whether school discipline is racially biased. [...]  Disparate-impact analysis holds that if a facially-neutral policy negatively affects blacks and Hispanics at a higher rate than whites and Asians, it is discriminatory. Noticing the behavioral differences that lead to those disparate effects is forbidden. In the area of school discipline, disparate-impact analysis results in the conclusion that racially neutral rules must nevertheless contain bias, since black students nationally are suspended at nearly three times the rate of white students. [...]  Seventy-three children, some as young as 11, have been arrested for murder and manslaughter over the last decade, according to the Florida Times-Union. Black juveniles made up 87.6 percent of those arrests and whites 8 percent. The black population in Duval County—which includes Jacksonville—was 28.9 percent in 2010 and the white population 56.6 percent, making black youngsters 21.6 times more likely to be arrested for homicide than white youngsters. Nationally, black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic male teens combined; if Hispanics were removed from the equation, the black-white disparity would be much greater.

Back to Discipline, Disparate impact reflects disparate reality, Heather MacDonald, City Journal, December 19, 2018, https://www.city-journal.org/disparate-impact-analysis

Here's one of the most recent critiques, by John McWhorter (Linguist and associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. Also happens to be black, and very concerned about the impact of misguided white liberals on his community):

 

The Bigotry Against Black Boys

Black boys get suspended and expelled from schools more than other kids. According to Elect ideology this must be because they are discriminated against.

Specifically, we are told to think that the reason these boys get disciplined more than other kids is because teachers hold biases against them. The white kid acting up is a scamp; the black kid acting up is a thug. There are scholar-activists who have founded whole careers on bringing this wisdom to America’s educators and beyond. In 2014, a “Dear Colleague” letter went out from the U.S. Department of Education concurring that black boys are disciplined disproportionately because of racism. In 2019, the United States Commission on Civil Rights released a briefing report making the same case titled “Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities.”

Noble notions from noble entities. But the simple fact is this. Black boys do commit more violent offenses in public schools than other kids. Period. This means that if we follow these prophets’ advice and go easier on black boys, we hinder the education of other black students. The Elect earnestly decry that most black kids go to school with only other black kids, because it fits into their agenda to point out “segregation.” But that “segregation” also entails that the black boys they think should be allowed to beat other kids up in school are handing out the beatings to other black kids. For example, The Philadelphia Inquirer fanned out across the city’s public schools in 2012 and found that there had been 30,000 violent incidents in public schools between 2007 and then, which included robberies, rapes, and a pregnant teacher punched in the stomach (she was one of 4000 teachers assaulted by students between 2005 and 2010).

Out of desire not to stereotype black kids, one might interpret those numbers in various ways designed to take the focus off of black boys. However, these interpretations just don’t work out.For example, one might imagine that a lot of these assaults may have been committed by white kids. But the numbers don’t square with it: in Philadelphia’s public schools, 2 in 3 students (70%) are black or Latino. Or, one might imagine that just maybe, that one third of white kids are committing a disproportionate amount of the assaults? But other studies reveal that it is indeed black boys who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of school violence. The National Center for Education Statistics surveyed students nationwide and found that in 2015, 12.6% of black kids surveyed had had a fight on school grounds while only 5.6% of white kids had. It was not a fluke year: in 2013, the numbers were 12.8% vs. 6.4. In other words, black kids were over twice as likely to engage in violence at school than white kids.

Those are the facts. You must consider them the next time you see an earnest [...] person in business clothes claiming that “black boys” get a raw deal in disciplining. If they can’t defend themselves in view of the studies mentioned above, and/or give no evidence of having even learned of them, they are not teaching but preaching, and for a purpose that leaves legions of black and Latino kids not only improperly educated but beaten up. Note: I have spared you the accounts of physical assault these kids’ teachers often suffer as well. 

The Elect will see only “racism” here, but only because their religious commitment numbs them to the harm their view does to real children living their lives in the real world. To insist that bigotry is the only possible reason for suspending more black boys than white boys is espouse harming black students. [...]

John McWhorter, 23 March 2021, THE THREAT TO A PROGRESSIVE AMERICA FROM ANTI-BLACK ANTIRACISTS: ELECT IDEOLOGY HURTS BLACK PEOPLE, https://johnmcwhorter.substack.com/p/the-elect-the-threat-to-a-progressive-598

Thing is I guess for as long as firms can fill their grad intake with PLU who are at least good enough, then they don't really need to look deeply elsewhere.

Those above saying that the die is cast well before law firms have any opportunity to influence applicants' future are correct. Aristotle said: “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” He was self-evidently correct. 

Well-intentioned attempts to ignore reality end badly. Here's one of the more egregious examples:

"Students start knife fight after attending workshop at Pinsent Masons", https://www.thelawyer.com/students-start-knife-fight-after-attending-workshop-at-pinsent-masons/

"Pinsent Masons conducts ‘thorough review’ after CV workshop students start Square Mile knife brawl", https://www.legalcheek.com/2015/10/pinsent-masons-conducts-thorough-review-after-cv-workshop-students-start-square-mile-knife-brawl/

"Pinsent Masons course ends in running battle through City", https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/pinsent-masons-course-ends-running-battle-through-city

"There was “blood everywhere”, adding “One of the victims, a black man, was on the floor and didn’t look too good. He was holding the left side of his stomach”.  [...] The fight apparently began when Almahda Ali, 22, Raheem Simon, 20, and Perry Jessep, 20, fell out with three other Pinsents CV clinic attendees, Aaron Taylor, Ridwan Ibrahim and Khalid Youssef, all 19. [...] The melee — which saw, among other things, Simon reportedly deliver a kung-fu inspired kick to someone’s head, before being stabbed himself — brought the Bishopsgate area of the City to a standstill for over four hours [...]"

A "CV workshop" was never going to change those people's future. Wishful thinking is not a strategy.

A more realistic analysis, for better or worse, can be found in this article. It includes an eye-opening glimpse into the global 'parental arms race' rendering poor children doomed from the outset, and notes that even if - against the odds - they can crack education, they (we: I'm among them) never truly fit it:

"For decades mainstream politicians fixated on education as the way to level the playing field of life. They were wrong [...]  nobody on either side of the Atlantic believes we’ve “fixed” social mobility at all. [...] There is no limit on how far the educational arms race can go. Markovits reports that in South Korea, private tutoring now accounts for a staggering 12 per cent of all household expenditure. With expanded universities, graduates now marry and socialise overwhelmingly with other graduates, and so education draws a sharper line between different worlds. [...] the way we look at those golden post-war years might be upside down. The burgeoning of the professional classes was not caused by the great expansion of education—it began too early for that. Rather, it was the postwar economy that created the openings [...]

Whereas many studies of class look at somebody with a good degree, declare a triumph and move on, this book does not assume that you can dump the baggage of class at a graduation ceremony—or the door of your employer. Instead, it looks at what happens to graduates of different backgrounds when they go to interview, and how working-class young adults fare if and when they make it into elite firms. Even those who storm the citadel go on to earn £6,400 less, a near 16 per cent class pay gap. The head start that professional parents give their children does not stop with coughing up for private tutoring; during internships, they can feed them for as long as it takes, pay the bills and often offer a roof over their heads in the metropolis, too. But the book’s reportage also suggests the power of something more nebulous—differences in people’s expectations and sense of entitlement, as well as their “fit” within the elite. A few extra years of education cannot equalise this, because the differences are simply too deeply rooted. As John Lennon put it in “Working Class Hero,” “As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small…”"

The social mobility trap, Tom Clark, Prospect magazine, 9 December 2019, https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/the-social-mobility-trap-education-schools-equality-jobs-workap-education-schools-equality-jobs-work

I've already recommended Downward Social Mobility, BBC Analysis, 22 February 2015: "Social mobility is a good thing - right? Politicians worry that not enough people from less-privileged backgrounds get the opportunity to move up in life. But are we prepared to accept that others lose out - and move in the opposite direction?*Jo Fidgen explores the implications of downward social mobility." https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b052hvhnhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b052hvhn [* Answer: no. Therefore social mobility is a myth]

 

In conclusion, and repeating a point I made yesterday, I'm not defending "reality", merely describing it as I perceive it (and in the process sharing sources I found interesting).

Mountain - um I’m struggling to see where I said that racism (covert or otherwise) was the sole factor in poor educational outcomes and career outcomes for black kids? I merely said there was an element of this.

you mention McWhorter whose views I am aware of but even then what he advocates is discliplining wrongdoing rather than letting off children in the US who commit violent acts because they are black because this puts non-violent black and other kids at risk

none of this addresses

i) whether or not there is a systematic pattern across the UK of black kids being treated more leniently solely because of race (ie black kids are getting preferential treatment) - and certainly my personal experience and those of people around me in various parts of the UK not just London/metropolitan areas suggest otherwise actually

or

ii) whether or not teachers/recruiters develop a bias against black students and candidates in the UK because of the stereotype of violent/aggressive black kids generally. I am not talking about letting off black kids as McWhorter is suggesting - I am talking about the risk of racial profiling based on stereotype

Those above saying that the die is cast well before law firms have any opportunity to influence applicants' future are correct.

I think this is a philosophical point ultimately

Employers know that what they can do is limited. But they know that the little they can do *might* do some good in a broken system as by and large most people’s life outcomes are more or less determined by then.

Should one give a homeless person or a housing charity some money or simply give up knowing that they are ultimately powerless to change the structural social and economoc problems that cause homelessness?

Should one stop eating meat to “save the planet”, or should one give up, knowing that the impact of English people (pop. 68mn) turning vegetarian is dwarfed by the impact of the Chinese (pop. 1.3bn) who now consume 6x the amount of meat they did 50 years ago?

I have a theory about social mobility at city law firms. 
————-

stopped reading there tbf 

no one cares m99

no one cares m99

umm

clearly a few people did

including yourself - at least enough to post that comment

I've just noticed that ROF mentioned this thread in yesterday's weekly email. I'd not revisited it until now.

The comment above re. "...whether or not ...recruiters develop a bias against black students and candidates in the UK because of the stereotype of violent/aggressive black kids" reminded me of Pinsents ill-fated social engineering exercise a few years ago:

"Students start knife fight after attending workshop at Pinsent Masons", https://www.thelawyer.com/students-start-knife-fight-after-attending-workshop-at-pinsent-masons/

"Pinsent Masons conducts ‘thorough review’ after CV workshop students start Square Mile knife brawl", https://www.legalcheek.com/2015/10/pinsent-masons-conducts-thorough-review-after-cv-workshop-students-start-square-mile-knife-brawl/

"Pinsent Masons course ends in running battle through City", https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/pinsent-masons-course-ends-running-battle-through-city

"There was “blood everywhere”, adding “One of the victims, a black man, was on the floor and didn’t look too good. He was holding the left side of his stomach”. [...] The fight apparently began when Almahda Ali, 22, Raheem Simon, 20, and Perry Jessep, 20, fell out with three other Pinsents CV clinic attendees, Aaron Taylor, Ridwan Ibrahim and Khalid Youssef, all 19. [...] The melee — which saw, among other things, Simon reportedly deliver a kung-fu inspired kick to someone’s head, before being stabbed himself — brought the Bishopsgate area of the City to a standstill for over four hours [...]"

Social engineering is not employers' responsibility. We will select the objectively best people at the point at which they apply to us in their early 20's. Performance until that point is primarily determined by functional families (i.e. not single mothers/feckless fathers), educational performance (i.e. no a phobia of "acting white"), and the avoidance of criminality (i.e. not succumbing to the temptation of stabbing each other). If certain communities fail to perform, that's not our problem.

The Sewell report did an excellent job of summarising the Left's lobotomised approach to poor performance. As this review describes - https://quillette.com/2021/05/17/debate-and-disinformation-the-ugly-quarrel-over-the-uk-governments-race-report- "The [Sewell] report refuses to accept that disparity equals discrimination and makes a point of exploring other plausible explanations for differences between UK subpopulations [...] The reaction from much of the Left was apoplectic to the point of incoherence."

Ultimately, these are political issues. The majority of the UK view the Black Lies Matter movement, and their supporters, with contempt; others feel differently. Let's leave it to the ballot box to sort out.