School statistics demonstrate that City firms do not have to look far to find high-achieving young people from a range of backgrounds.

If asked to describe the characteristics of inner city London, most people might talk about urban deprivation, ill-lit council estates and gang crime. But how many would mention that its schools are among the best in the country?

Several studies show inner city London schools to be significantly outperforming their suburban counterparts.

A report from thinktank CentreForum found that nine London boroughs ranked among the 10 best local authorities in England for the quality of their state schools, including Hackney and Tower Hamlets. 

It said: ‘Pupils of all types – including the poorest pupils and those from typically underperforming ethnic groups – perform better in London than in all other regions.' 

London clearly has a talent pool of diverse aspiring young people on its doorstep, yet City firms appear to be failing to tap the resource.

One top government legal professional recently told me that UK City firms would not survive in the US, as contract compliance across the pond requires firms to demonstrate workforce diversity when tendering for public sector business.

Speaking at a diversity event organised by top-20 firm Pinsent Masons, Labour MP Diane Abbott said: ‘British Law firms are lagging behind their American counterparts in taking diversity seriously.'

She said: ‘The legal profession is well-placed to influence, both through its words and its deeds. It is therefore incumbent on the legal community to move as fast and as far as it can to address the inequality of opportunity that still exists, starting in its own back yard.'

But there is also a strong business case in doing so, said Abbott. Lookalike hires tend to lead to lookalike skillsets, and firms will need greater diversity to succeed in new markets.

Sonya Leydecker, incoming chief executive of Herbert Smith Freehills, agrees. She said ‘attracting and retaining the very best talent from a more diverse base as we continue to globalise’ is a key priority.

The school statistics demonstrate that City firms do not have to look far to find high-achieving young people from a range of backgrounds. So perhaps it’s time more asked why it is they are failing to utilise this resource.  

Kathleen Hall is a Gazette reporter