Much progress has been made in providing support and opportunities for people coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Having tools that allow us to judge candidates based on potential rather than just academic performance is hugely advantageous in recruiting from a diverse pool of talent. It also enables people to challenge their perception of what good looks like. To ensure continued progression, it is key for firms to have an inclusive culture to retain, as well as attract, such individuals.
Andy Dent – Global Head of Corporate Responsibility and Inclusion
Social Mobility In Focus
What challenges have you faced in your journey so far?
I was rejected at the application stage by all three Russell Group universities I applied to. This came as a huge blow and, looking back, I don’t know what more I could have done to have sold myself. I was one of the highest achievers in my year for both GCSEs and A-levels. I was involved in a number of extra-curricular activities and was appointed head boy in my final year. My school even helped me arrange a week’s work experience in a city law firm. I really thought that I would stand out as a strong applicant to any university.
My teachers and careers advisors all encouraged me to apply to the top universities. It really knocked my confidence after receiving so much encouragement to find out I had not been progressed to the interview stage. The sceptic in me wonders whether the outcome would have been different had I been applying from the local boys’ grammar school rather than the mixed comprehensive.
What can firms do to support students?
If firms want to attract applications from students from more diverse backgrounds, they should actively seek out those students. An easy way to do this build up an on-campus presence at universities other than those that have traditionally been viewed, rightly or wrongly, as the better ones. When I applied to UEA it was ranked 33rd nationally for law, it is now ranked 7th. Despite this, UEA still receives less attention from city law firms than many equally or worse-ranked Russell Group universities.
As well interacting with universities directly as part of their graduate recruitment programmes, firms can also make a difference through their pro bono output. At Clyde & Co we have a mentoring scheme with first year law students at London Metropolitan University, a local non-Russell Group university. Students are assigned a lawyer as their mentor and are invited to attend six sessions where they are offered advice relating to careers, applications and more.
Does your background stop you being a successful lawyer?
To be a successful lawyer at Clyde & Co you need, amongst other things, to be a strong communicator, work well as part of a team, and be able to think commercially in any given situation. These skills are not dependant on background and can be gained and developed regardless of who you are or where you come from.
Your background should be an asset to you, not a liability. If you meet the standard required to join Clyde & Co as a trainee, but elements of your background required you to work a little harder to hit that standard compared to your peers, that speaks far more about your qualities as an individual than it does about any shortcomings. Your background only defines you insofar as you allow it to, so wield the positive outcomes to your advantage and allow yourself to stand out.
Why is diversity important for Clyde & Co?
Being a global law firm, diversity is critical to the international nature of our business. A diverse business delivers better products and services to clients and creates a more positive culture, enabling and encouraging different opinions, mindsets and backgrounds that can thrive. It is therefore essential that we fully reflect the diversity of our clients and the communities and rich cultures in which we live and work. Put simply, we want to attract talented individuals regardless of their background and create an inclusive and supportive work environment, where everyone can reach their full potential.