A pioneering initiative to improve social mobility in the law will be widened to support GCSE students, following a £1m cash injection by the profession.

The Sutton Trust has announced that its Pathways to Law programme will now provide support to students in school years 10 and 11, and throughout sixth form. It currently supports students in years 12 and 13.

Research by the trust suggests that three-quarters of senior judges and QCs were independently schooled.

Legal Education Foundation chief executive Matthew Smerdon said: ‘By reaching students at an earlier stage, we hope to encourage more bright young people from poorer homes [to recognise] that a career in law is open to them.’

The Pathways to Law programme, which was set up a decade ago, will be targeted at ‘academically able’ pupils from non-privileged homes.

The programme will be run by 12 ‘partner’ universities including new joiners the University of Roehampton, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Leicester and the University of Liverpool.

The four-year programme of support that will be given to the 1,800 students includes help with applying for training contracts, writing CVs and interview techniques, as well as opportunities for work experience.

Trust chair Sir Peter Lampl (pictured) said: ‘Greater access to a wider pool of diverse talent will deliver real benefits for employers and employees alike.’

The programme is funded by the Legal Education Foundation, Law Society, Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Cooley, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters and Macfarlanes.