Boosting social mobility means considering candidates’ backstories.
Successful people from humble origins often recall inappropriate school careers advice. Decades later, it can still rankle.
As the legal profession mulls improving social mobility, the advice given to aspiring solicitors is rightly front of mind. After all, lawyers are not social engineers – in a society afflicted by Edwardian levels of inequality, there is only so much they can do.
Telling people they can reach the pinnacle of the profession if they work hard and believe in themselves is but a soothing bromide. Yet the alternative – suggesting that less prestigious jobs related to law are a more realistic ambition – risks discouraging those who could set out and reach the very top.
At the same time, the route to law’s glittering prizes is changing, influenced by developments in technology charted by Richard Susskind. An ambitious professional may no longer need AAB at A-level and a 2:1 from a top university to be marketing or IT director at a law firm. Yet law firms will urgently need – and pay top dollar for – these roles.
We must therefore acknowledge the limitations imposed on the profession by forces outside its control. But the evolution of contextualisation shows what can be done. If a lawyer recruiter has one obligation then perhaps it is this: to look beyond the blunt criterion of a standardised application form.