Social Mobility and the Law (Revisited)

To coincide with the Pathways to Law placements taking place this week across our four English offices I thought it was an appropriate time to provide an update on a previous post we wrote about social mobility and the Law.

In early 2011 Pinsent Masons became one of the first law firms to start collecting equal opportunities data relating to social mobility from our candidates.  Access to the legal profession was already a ‘hot topic’ but since then social mobility has come under further scrutiny with many social commentators arguing that the UK is becoming a less socially mobile society.

We have continued to monitor the diversity of our vacation placement and trainee intake and have sought to remain alert to the impact of changes we have made to our recruitment process e.g. revised assessment materials following our 2012 merger and the decision to increase our minimum academic requirements in 2013.  The results of our 2014 vacation placement recruitment can be seen below.


 Educational Background % Total Applications % Total Rejected   at Screening % Offered Placement
State       58            57 58
Independent       32            33 31
Independent (FS)        3             2 7
No answer        7             7 5

‘Independent (FS)’ relates to those students who attended an independent school but received a financial scholarship of 50% or above to help them attend.

What does it all mean?

The figures show the applications received according to where the applicant was educated, as a % of the overall total .  Also shown is how far candidates from each category progressed through the selection process, again as % of the total.  For example state school applicants represents 58% of the total applications received (down from 62% in 2011) with 58% of the total offers made also going to state-educated pupils (down from 63% in 2011).

As was the case in 2011 the figures demonstrate that the type of school attended does not have a significant impact on whether your application will be successful or not.  Almost identical results were obtained when looking at the performance of candidates who were in the first generation of their family to attend university (34% of applications received and 31% of offers made); those students eligible for free school meals slightly under-performed on average accounting for 8% of total applications but only 6% of offers made (approx. 15% of students are eligible for free meals in each school year group).  Nonetheless in summary, broadly speaking ‘what goes in, also comes out’.

There is not much data available in the public domain about the diversity of law firm applicants so it is hard to know how our performance compares to other law firms but it is heartening to see that despite making a number of changes to the selection process in recent years it does not seem to be having an adverse impact on any particular candidate group.

In spite of the above it is disappointing to see that the number of applications received from state-educated candidates has fallen as a % of the total; we had hoped to see the % rise as a result of us broadening our attraction channels e.g. increasing the number of law fairs we attend each year.  It is important to remember that only around 7% of students are educated at independent schools and yet they account for just over a third of our applications.

There is clearly plenty more for us to do in order to encourage the best students (whatever their educational background) to consider a legal career at Pinsent Masons but we hope that by being transparent about our selection process you can see we are committed to ensuring our process is fair and that if you have the necessary talent to be a commercial lawyer than you can succeed.  As a firm we will continue to work hard to remove unnecessary barriers to people considering a legal career but we need you to take that final decision to submit an application to us!

If you have any questions about the above please let us know.