Social Mobility and the Law – what do the figures actually suggest?

Those of you who have been following the recent debate surrounding the decline in social mobility, particularly within the professions, will have noticed there has been a distinct lack of reliable data to support many of the claims being made, the major exception to this being the detailed research conduted by the Sutton Trust.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, at Pinsent Masons we are 100% committed to recruiting the very best candidates, wherever they might be found.  We tend to go about our work quietly and this can mean we don’t always hit the headlines in the way some other firms do.  Reading about the ‘high-level summit’ at which Magic Circle firms discussed ‘new initiatives’ such as a work experience programme aimed at A-Level students was typical of this coverage.  The fact that we have been running our own school work experience programme for almost a decade seems to have escaped their attention!   What is more, without the need for any special quotas or positive discrimination the scheme has attracted applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds and has won awards on the strength of this.


The results are in

So what does our own data relating to social mobility actually say?  Well, despite a slightly confusing article in Lawyer2B we are now in a position to share the first set of data that was collected during our recent vacation placement recruitment (this represents a pool of almost 1000 applcations).   You may need to click on the image below to see the results in full (this will depend on your screen settings). 

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


What does it all mean?

The figures show the total number of applications received according to where the applicant was educated.  Also shown is how far the candidate progressed through the selection process.  The percentage figure shows these same figures as a percentage of the total number of applicants at a given stage of the process e.g. the 605 state school applicants represents 62% of the total applications received; the 55 offers made to state school students represents 63% of the total offers made.

The figures demonstrate that the type of school you attend does not have a significant impact on whether your application will be successful or not, and this holds true across each stage of the selection process.  Almost identical results were obtained when looking at the performance of candidates who were eligible for free school meals or who were in the first generation fo their fmaily to attend university.  In short ‘what goes in, also comes out’.  This is very reassuring as it would be a concern if a particular group of students appeared to be adversely impacted by the selection process.


Next Steps

We will of course continue to monitor this data in the future as one set of results does not mean a huge amount in isolation.  In the short term we are keen to see if these results are mirrored in our training contract selection process later in the year and we are also interested to see how our performance compares to other law firms and graduate employers.

Having tried to ensure the selection process if fair to all candidates the second strand of our recruitment is making sure the right people apply in the first place.  This is arguably an area where most employers can still do more.  Already we are planning our attraction for next year and we are going to be visiting more campuses than ever before and we hope that by highlighting these figures it will demonstrate that we are interested in receiving applications from talented candidates whatever their background.

It would be really interesting to hear your comments on this and also what you think we can do in the year ahead to help improve access to the legal profession.