Two top City firms have been recognised for their efforts to increase the diversity of their staff. 

Allen & Overy has been given the City & Guilds stamp of approval for its work experience programme. A&O’s Smart Start Experience has helped over 700 London students, aged 16-17 and from non-privileged backgrounds, gain insight into the legal profession.

The scheme was started in 2009 and is the first work experience programme in the legal sector to be awarded City & Guilds accreditation.

A&O senior partner David Morley said: ‘High-quality work experience is a vital first step on the career ladder and something that should be equally available to all young people, regardless of their background.’

Last month a report commissioned by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission highlighted a dramatic over-representation of those educated at independent schools and Oxbridge across the legal and political institutions that have a profound influence on what happens in the UK.

Elitist Britain? revealed that 71% of senior judges attended independent schools and 75% of senior judges attended Oxbridge.

Meanwhile Simmons & Simmons has been shortlisted in this year’s European Diversity Awards for its commitment to diversity and initiatives which are run through the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) network.

The firm is one of eight nominees for ‘Outstanding Employee Network Group of the Year’ category.

David Stone, partner and co-chair of the Simmons & Simmons LGBT network, said the nomination ‘recognises the contribution the firm’s LGBT network makes to diversity beyond just our firm, as well as the work, dedication and commitment that goes into our equality and inclusion initiatives’.

He added: ‘We aim to further increase the support we provide to organisations outside of the legal sector, particularly in fields that have struggled with LGBT inclusion.

‘As a firm with offices in Asia and the Middle East, we are also keen to increase our activities beyond Europe. This recognition by the European Diversity Awards will play a huge part in reaching this goal.’