A new report published by The Prince's Trust has warned that a 'lack of inherited opportunities' means that children from families who are not socially well-connected risk falling even further behind their more advantaged peers. That shouldn't be breaking news to anybody. The so-called "social bank of mum and dad" can be as important as financial backing in supporting those starting out on their careers. Why? Simple: a lot of young people find work experience or their first job through family contacts. Why is that a problem? Well, it isn't for them. On the contrary and good luck to them. But what has this got to do with the legal profession? Everything.

The report speaks of the lack of inherited opportunities for poorer children, whose parents are not well-connected. At Hogan Lovells, we could fill our summer placement schemes with the sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and godchildren of our partners, partners' friends, clients and business contacts. If we did, we would hire some seriously talented people. But we say no to them. Why? Because there are even more seriously talented people out there who don't swim in this self-selecting gene pool.

Why does that matter? Well it could be that the answer is all around us as we increasingly see the consequences of social exclusion in the UK and elsewhere.  But we're lawyers so that's not our problem, is it? Yes, it is. The rule of law is a vital component of a stable society. Why should the creation, development and enforcement of that law be the exclusive preserve of those who happen to have been fortunate enough to be born in the right postcode?

It shouldn't. What we miss by not looking beyond those postcodes are highly intelligent and determined individuals who have succeeded despite adversity; students whose life experiences bring a different perspective and one which is often much more rounded. We miss the future lawyers with the ambition and drive to prove wrong those people who have written them off or told them it's not for them or that they won't fit. This is not about lowering standards. It is about raising aspirations. It is about giving an opportunity to the potential future leaders of our profession who would otherwise never get the chance to showcase their talent. We are a poorer profession without them.

So what can law firms do about it? They can help make a difference. Law firms can broaden the range of universities from which they recruit, they can consider using contextual recruitment, they can talk to PRIME. There is a lot that firms can do. What they can't do is nothing.

Nicholas Cheffings is the global Chair of Hogan Lovells and also Chair of PRIME.

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Comments

Anonymous 05 August 16 13:18

Gross hypocrisy of the worst kind and a shameless bit of PR stuntery from a big city law firm which hires from the elite and has no intention of ever recruiting proles like me.

"Children from families who are not socially well-connected do indeed risk falling even further behind their more advantaged peers...Law firms can broaden the range of universities from which they recruit"

That's brilliant. Erm, so why are Hog Love are recruiting "Campus Ambassadors" only from the "Elite" Russell group (and I quote) "Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, KCL, LSE, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, UCL, Warwick and York universities" (http://graduates.hoganlovells.com/your_career/campus_ambassadors/). No prizes for guessing which universities recruit a big slice of their intake from private schools.

Anonymous 05 August 16 13:23

Don't be silly, anonymous user. The likes of us aren't fit to lace their drinks.

Anonymous 05 August 16 15:13

HL ought really to get their own (glass) house in order before they start throwing these kind of stones...

Anonymous 05 August 16 15:59

This is such hypocrisy - one of the partners in the Corporate Dept. had her daughter in on more than one occasion for work experience - and one of her daughter's friends too!

Anonymous 05 August 16 10:17

Of Hog Love partners educated in the UK, what proportion did not attend a selective, fee paying school and/or a Russell Group university?

Anonymous 11 August 16 11:07

Before penning such a self-congratulatory and patronising note, Mr Cheffings might have been well advised to canvas his partners and HR team to verify the statements made.

His first paragraph points to the socially exclusionary practice of attaining "work experience" (a broader term) through family connections. In an attempt to suggest that his firm doesn't engage in or encourage such nepotism he then writes in his second para "[i]At Hogan Lovells, we could fill our [b]summer placement schemes[/b] with the sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and godchildren of our partners, partners' friends, clients and business contacts...... But we say no to them.[/i]"

Now, that may or may not be factually and technically correct as he only refers to "summer placement schemes" [a narrower subset of 'work experience', the term he used in the first paragraph] in the second para... but it's also very misleading as anon 14:59 notes. Allowing 'sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and godchildren of partners, partners' friends' etc. exclusive or predominant access to work experience (outside of the formal summer vacation scheme) opportunities at the firm does still serve to reinforce the nepotism he's suggesting that he and his firm so disdain.

Anonymous 12 August 16 11:00

This is compete BS. I trained there and there was definitely an informal work experience week for any relatives, clients' children etc etc. They may have cracked down on it now, but this is utter utter BS.

Anonymous 20 August 16 14:56

HL plough the same furrow as all the rest. Fee-paying school, Russell Group uni - Cheffings would be better off saying "we're a big City law firm - we hire the elite. The rest of you can just jog on, losers."