The London office of Herbert Smith Freehills launches Excel scholarship scheme.

In partnership with diversity-focused recruiter Rare, our London office launched the Excel scholarship in October. The scholarship targets black and minority ethnic (BAME) students who are Rare candidates interested in law in either their first year of a three-year course or second year of a four-year course.  Applications are not restricted to applicants from a state school background but around 80% of Rare’s candidates are state educated.

We recognise that we constantly need to look for new ways to attract the best people from the widest range of backgrounds. Having established a strong relationship with Rare, we saw this as a unique opportunity to reach out to talented BAME students. 

It is very important that law firms demonstrate they are committed to attracting the best candidates, irrespective of their background. Students place significant value on a firm’s diversity and inclusion strategy and want to know that they are applying to places where they can be themselves and not feel like an outsider. As is the case for our award-winning Networked Scholarship Scheme and participation in PRIME, we hope the launch of the Excel scholarship will further highlight the importance of diversity in the legal sector.

The scholarship will provide students with financial support and access to work experience opportunities at the firm from their first year at university.  Two scholars will receive:

  • an award of £9000 over three years of study;
  • a guaranteed place on Herbert Smith Freehills’ first year workshop;
  • two weeks’ paid work experience during the summer of their first year;
  • a guaranteed interview for our summer vacation scheme (conditional on reaching the required benchmark in their first year exams); and
  • personal study sessions with Rare’s Melissa Andrewes – a former Head of Students at the University of Law.

These opportunities will be invaluable to students and put them in a great position when considering their future career options.

The first year workshop is a way for the scholars to get an early insight into life at an international commercial law firm.  It is a first chance to network with trainees, associates and partners and to decide whether it is an environment they can imagine themselves working in. The work experience elements will enable the scholars to develop their skills and confidence and get a real insight into what being a trainee solicitor involves.  The work experience is also valuable for any future job applications. It helps give confidence to students and graduates trying to get on the career ladder and is often given significant weight by employers alongside academic results and extracurricular activities.

The personal study sessions with Rare’s Melissa Andrewes will also be a very useful tool for the scholars. The transition between school and university can sometimes be difficult for students.  They may struggle to adapt and this can then be reflected in their first year grades. The scholarship will be an opportunity for them to get advice about study methods and to discuss any aspects of their course they find particularly challenging.

We are very excited about this new opportunity at Herbert Smith Freehills and we look forward to welcoming our first Excel Scholars soon.

Matthew White is graduate recruitment partner at Herbert Smith Freehills