A US firm has specified that it only wants Oxbridge graduates to apply for a job.
The unidentified firm has placed an advert with Marsden, a legal recruitment agency, for a barrister to join its international arbitration practice.
The vacancy specified that the "prestigious US firm" was "seeking an Oxbridge educated Barrister who is looking to progress their career in private practise". It was also circulated online by a Marsden director. A source said, "coming from a non-Oxbridge background, I find this deeply offensive".
Marsden refused to divulge the identity of the firm. One of its legal recruiters told RollOnFriday, "I'm not at liberty to disclose anything about any of my clients".
Trigger warning: contains elitism
Oxbridge isn't solely the preserve of the white and the elite. 15.9% of Oxbridge students in 2016 were BAME compared to 13% in the UK propulation. But there are issues. Some colleges go years without recruiting any black students at all. Over 60% of Oxford students in 2018 went to private or grammar schools.
Employment experts told RollOnFriday the firm was not breaching the law. Characteristics including disability and race are protected under discrimination legislation, "but educational attainment is not". Arguably, said one expert, the firm could be accused of associated discrimination if it could be shown that specifying Oxbridge candidates served to filter out candidates with protected characteristics.
The first draft of the advert.
The firm's specification is at odds with the direction which progressive competitors are taking in their recruitment efforts. Increasingly, firms have sought to reduce pro-Oxbridge bias by adopting a 'CV blind' format. Under the approach, only the candidate's name is revealed to the interviewing panel, and not their sordid past at a redbrick or ex-poly.
Given the large proportion of barristers who did attend Oxbridge, the US firm probably didn't even need to specify a bar on non-Oxbridge scum. Jonathan Marsden, the principal of Marsden, did not respond to a request for comment. However he went to Newcastle, so RollOnFriday wouldn't have accepted his statement anyway.