The government’s social mobility tsar Alan Milburn this week urged law firms to scale up their use of apprenticeships and co-operate with initiatives to measure socioeconomic backgrounds of staff.
Speaking to the Gazette at a social mobility event hosted by Yorkshire firm Gordons, Milburn said the number of apprenticeship programmes currently on offer ‘barely scratches the surface’.
He said: ‘Getting them to scale will be the next big thing.’
Benchmarking socioeconomic backgrounds of firms will be easier once the Legal Services Board publishes socioeconomic data next year, he said. ‘The legal profession is the first to publish this data. On the basis of that [firms] will be able to determine what they should be seeking to achieve,’ he said. ‘Unless you set objectives, it is difficult to improve.’
In his first annual The State of the Nation 2013: social mobility and child poverty in Great Britain report published last month, Milburn singled out the legal sector for taking steps to improve access to the profession.
He praised the fact that a group of leaders in law had taken the issue seriously, and are promoting apprenticeship programmes through the PRIME work experience programme. 'Law is doing better than some other professions, but everyone knows we have a long way to go. It’s not just [a lack of diversity at the top] but the backgrounds of law students in 2012 did not change significantly.’
Every profession has seen huge qualification inflation over the last decades, so it is important some of the hurdles to entry are removed, he said. He added that in a profession undergoing so much change there was a strong business case for adopting new approaches to encouraging talent.