Addleshaw Goddard has announced that it is asking prospective trainees and vacation scheme applicants for details of their "social background".

In the latest of a string of law firm diversity initiatives, Addleshaws has started collecting data on the type of secondary school attended by candidates, and whether they are amongst the first generation of their family to attend university, according to a report in Lawyer2B. Ultimately the firm intends to capture this information on all its staff.

Addleshaws, along with the vast majority of City firms, already collects data on gender and ethnicity but very few firms look at social background. Herbert Smith is amongst those that does, and for the last year it has asked prospective trainees whether they went to state or private schools. And the somewhat surprisingly findings were that the majority were educated in the state sector (although 10% of those questioned refused to respond).

    A prospective candidate refusing to provide social background information yesterday

It's arguable that with an increased focus on ensuring that women and ethnic minority candidates are properly represented in the legal profession - social factors, especially poverty, now represent the largest obstacles to a legal career. But it's not entirely clear what firms will do with the data and indeed whether the type of school attended can really give that much away about social background. Addleshaw's diversity manager Mary Gallagher explained that "it's so that we know our make-up - we're not really making a judgment on it". So it could be argued that the move is little more than window dressing as part of the competition between law firms to devise novel diversity initiatives.

And in other Addleshaws' news, the firm has further shown its desire not to discriminate on the basis of social background this week by agreeing a "no win no fee" agreement - usually reserved for those who can't afford legal bills - with Russian oligarch and billionaire Boris Berezovsky, according to a report in The Lawyer.

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