A lack of eligible candidates for a magic circle social mobility scheme has prompted a university law school to try and boost the number of black men in the legal sector.
The University of Manchester's School of Law has established a pilot bursary scheme to address the obstacles faced by male students of African and Caribbean heritage from disadvantaged backgrounds. Up to three successful applicants will receive an annual £3,000 grant, funded by the law school.
Latest Law Society statistics show that the number of practising certificate holders describing themselves as African-Caribbean remains in three digits, with only 927 solicitors in that category (0.7% of PC holders). Men account for 260 of the 927 solicitors.
Barrister Tunde Okewale, of London's Doughty Street Chambers and an honorary lecturer at the university, said he would have benefited from the scheme had it existed when he studied law. 'I believe that it will help to improve and increase the diversity within the legal industry, as well as facilitating a more open and transparent dialogue about racial inequality in higher education,' he added.
The Gazette was told the scheme was set up after the law school discovered it had no eligible candidates to put forward for the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme in the 2015/16 academic year. Further investigations showed that there had been no eligible students for the past four years.
The scholarship, set up by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon (Doreen Lawrence), is designed to address the under-representation of black men from low-income households in large commercial law firms. It is aimed at first-year law students.
The law school's bursary will apply to undergraduate law and criminology courses. Applicants must be male and of black African/black Caribbean or mixed black African Caribbean background. They must live in Greater Manchester or study at a Greater Manchester institution. They must not have attended a fee-paying school in the UK.
They must also meet at least one of the following 'priority' criteria: experience of being in local authority care; living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood; or eligible for free school meals or means-tested benefit.
The law school is also in talks with a major law firm about summer placements for the bursary students.