City law firms are backing a unique programme to help promote diversity and social mobility in the legal profession.
Baker and McKenzie joins DAC Beachcroft, the Government Legal Service, Pinsent Masons, Shoosmiths and Sidley Austin in sponsoring the BLD Foundation’s Legal Launch Pad programme.
BLD Foundation founder Debo Nwauzu (pictured), a non-practising solicitor and barrister, said Legal Launch Pad was the only diversity and social mobility access programme that ‘selects and supports’ undergraduate and postgraduate students ‘throughout, up to, and including when they attain full-time employment’.
The nine-month programme provides students with support in taking the next step in their legal careers, such as legal skills training workshops, one-to-one mentoring and work placements with sponsoring firms.
The foundation’s announcement states that the programme boasts a ‘high’ success rate.
A fifth of the 41 students supported in 2013 secured training contracts by May 2014 and more than half gained full-time employment in legal roles.
The programme supported 40 students in 2014; a quarter secured training contracts by the ‘passing-out ceremony’ in September and a further 28% found employment.
Of the 56 beneficiaries last year, 20 received training contracts by November and ‘many more’ are in compliance and legal assistance roles.
This year the programme will help 56 students.
West London Law Society president Nehal Vasani, an adviser to the foundation’s board of trustees, said: ‘In the current legal landscape, accessing a successful career in law is difficult even when all the stars are aligned for a candidate.
‘Attempting to do so when you are struggling due to the hurdles of social mobility or as a result of coming into the profession from a disadvantaged background, for whatever reason, is nigh-on impossible.’
Vasani said the programme gave participants an ‘invaluable’ opportunity to ‘achieve an equal footing with their counterparts, a position which they would otherwise be unable to achieve’.
Sponsors also include Barclays, No5 Chambers, the University of Law and Vodafone. The charity also receives support from BP, Criterion Partnership, BPP Law School, magic circle firm Slaughter and May, and the London Borough of Hackney’s legal team.