The legal profession once again dominates what is believed to be the world's only social mobility employer index, with 14 firms appearing among the top 50 employers which have taken the most action to progress talent from all backgrounds.

Alan Milburn

Alan Milburn

Leading the way in the legal sector is the Ministry of Justice, which has been ranked third in the Top 50 Social Mobility Employer Index. The ranking, now in its second year, is jointly run by the Social Mobility Foundation, a charity founded in 2005, the government-sponsored Social Mobility Commission, and the City of London Corporation.

International firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, in fourth place, is the highest-ranked law firm. Baker McKenzie, Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills and Freeths make the top 20. The index also features Clifford Chance, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells, DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons, HFW, Slaughter and May, Mayer Brown International and Dentons, as well as The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple.

The index is a free, voluntary survey that assesses employers on their work with young people, recruitment and selection processes, and how employees from lower-income backgrounds progress within the organisation. More than 100 employers from 18 sectors including banking, engineering, retail and technology entered this year. Over 11,000 people took part in a voluntary employee survey.

Kathryn Hull

Kathryn Hull

Alan Milburn, former chair of the commission, said: 'There is a mood for change in the nation. As the index shows, social mobility is becoming a cause for more and more of our country's top employers. It is welcome that they are stepping up to the plate. They are making these changes both because they see the social need to do so and because they recognise the business benefit that greater diversity can bring.'

Top-ranked law firm BCLP has a dedicated Social Inclusion and Ethnicity Group, led by Partners Tim Smith and Segun Osuntokun, that focuses its social mobility efforts across a range of different areas including outreach to schools, work experience, mentoring and opportunities for school leavers.

 Notable activities in the last year include the firm’s two week Career Kick Start work experience programme that’s open to young people from lower socio economic backgrounds across the UK who may otherwise not have access to the legal profession.

Tim Smith said: 'It’s fantastic to have recognition for our approach to social mobility, which is opening up a broader and more diverse pool of talent. We know that diversity drives innovation, which is a key differentiator in the legal market.'

Solicitor Nathalie Hobbs, Linklaters executive champion for social mobility, said she was thrilled the magic circle firm features in the list for the second year in a row. The firm's efforts include opening up winter, spring and summer vacation schemes to penultimate-year undergraduates and postgraduates.

Kathryn Hull, senior corporate responsibility manager at HFW, said welcoming talent from a more diverse range of backgrounds 'is the ultimate measure of success' for the international firm. The percentage of the firm's trainees who are the first in their family to go to university jumped from 10% in 2015 to 33% this year.