Magic circle firm Clifford Chance has increased the number of ‘first generation university’ students winning placements at the firm by one-third, through a ‘CV blind’ programme. 

Under its Intelligent Aid scheme, candidates are asked to write a 500-word essay on a topic important to the firm, with their university background remaining undisclosed. Since the placement scheme began last year, the intake of students from universities outside those Clifford Chance has traditional ties with has tripled. 

Of the 16 students on the paid two-week scheme last year, 10 went on to win training contracts. This year the firm expects the number of placements from Intelligent Aid to be 20, with a prize of £5,000 going to the student who writes the best essay.

The firm has also adopted a ‘CV blind’ policy for final interviews with potential recruits. The scheme has broadened the number of academic institutions from which the firm recruits to 41, up from 32 last year. 

Heather Iqbal-Rayner, outgoing chair of the Junior Lawyers Division, welcomed the firm’s policy. ‘In the magic circle firms a lack of diversity is an issue for training contracts, and this scheme could be a trend setter for other [City] firms. However, I don’t think it’s going to have a big impact on high street firms – as they already recruit from a more diverse range of candidates.’

Laura Yeates, graduate recruitment and development manager at the firm, said the schemes were a key strategy in broadening its talent pool. 

She said the firm is looking at ways it can more accurately measure progress in social mobility, by examining the family background of people on placements and whether pupils on work experience receive free school meals.

Clifford Chance has also broadened engagement with university students seeking to enter the profession with weekly live ‘meet the recruiters’ Q&A sessions on Facebook.