City firms Baker & McKenzie and Linklaters were announced champions of social mobility by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg today.
The firms are two of 12 companies, including Deloitte, EY, The Co-Operative Food and Standard Life, to be nominated Social Mobility Business Compact ‘champions’.
The champions will drive a new benchmark for social mobility by committing to meet a set of strict criteria over the next 12 months, building on their existing work.
The criteria include: developing relationships with schools and young people; targeting efforts on institutions with above-average levels of disadvantage; widening the geographical spread of opportunities; and offering well-structured non-graduate entry-routes and driving forward recruitment practices that eliminate barriers to social mobility.
The champions are signatories of the government’s Social Mobility Business Compact, which encourages employers to offer young people fair and open access to employment opportunities.
Linklaters partner Simon Branigan, who attended a state grammar school and was the first member of his family to go to university, said: ‘Law firms have been seen as being slightly behind the curve, which is not always justified as there are firms like ours that do an awful lot more than people realise.
‘If we, a magic circle firm, can do this, there’s no reason why others who have the same energy and resources, can’t either.’
Initiatives at Linklaters include visiting primary schools in London boroughs such as Hackney and helping children as young as four with literacy and communication skills, and work experience placements for 100 youngsters, aged 15 and over, from less privileged backgrounds.
Baker & McKenzie is one of the few firms to have a partner - Sarah Gregory - dedicated entirely to inclusion and diversity.
Gregory said: ‘It is such a key strategic area. It’s not just about recruitment – it’s how we work with our lawyers, how we retain them, give them the right sort of work and training in a completely fair and unbiased way.’