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Social Mobility Report: Four in ten students advised against pursuing a career in law

To read the full report, click here.

Whilst law can be a fulfilling and rewarding career for people from every background, young people in the UK are being discouraged from studying the subject according to research by leading law firm Walker Morris.

Paint on Canvas: social mobility report

The new research shows that four in ten (38%) young people have been advised against pursuing their chosen career path, with just 16% expressing that they had ever considered a career in law. It also revealed that young women are often more likely to consider law as a career than young men, with 20% of women saying they had thought about it compared to 11% of men.

The survey of 2,000 14-18-year-olds in the UK highlights that whilst perceptions of the legal industry are changing, with many firms more inclusive and diverse than ever, there is still a lot of work to do within the legal sector. For example, the data reveals that students from lower-income households were 8% more likely to have been discouraged from studying law by an adult.

It is hardly surprising that so few individuals are considering a career in law, as the research revealed that almost half (46%) of students are not offered the option to take a law course at GCSE or A-Level.

Malcolm Simpson, Managing Partner says:

“It’s discouraging to see that the obstacles that many members of our team have had to overcome in their careers remain in place for future generations. At Walker Morris, three quarters (78%) of our solicitors, including myself and other partners, went to state schools – and we are proud to stand as evidence that those who work hard enough and have a passion can succeed in law, despite their background.”

“Every one of us is highly invested in making the field more accessible and diverse so we can bring talented young people from all backgrounds into law – but there’s a long way still to go. Law firms must change the narrative around law for young people by building working relationships with schools and colleges and helping to explain the exciting opportunities that a career in law can offer.”

Time is one of the major concerns about studying law for 40% of students, and the same portion (40%) feel that the university fees involved are too high. One in five students (20%) also felt discouraged by the requirement for additional legal qualifications.

The concerns highlighted in the research are particularly significant as the cost-of-living crisis disproportionately impacts lower-income households. It is likely that the economic crisis will push even more capable students away from law, as many don’t have years to spend studying or the savings required to enter the field through the traditional university route.

Walker Morris wants to ensure that young people are made more aware about alternative routes into law, such as competitively paid legal apprenticeships and CILEX (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives), which help to offer more options for young people.

Clear communication about the reality of studying law is also essential for countering widespread misconceptions. Firms should consider holding sessions where students can ask questions and meet with career advisors. Walker Morris has made sharing information about law a part of its Ambition 2024 programme and has partnered with Ahead Partnership to work with Bishop Young High School in Leeds to host workshops and Q&A sessions with the students.

Walker Morris has now implemented RARE, a contextual recruitment system (CMS) which identifies the most disadvantaged candidates and those who have outperformed their schools by the greatest amounts. This platform aims to level the playing field for young people looking to pursue a career in law and by utilising the system in its recruitment process, Walker Morris aims to increase the amount of interviews it carries out and the number of trainee appointments of those from underrepresented backgrounds.

To increase awareness of the accessibility of commercial law firms to everyone, the firm has hosted ‘speed dating’ sessions with the University of Huddersfield and ran multiple mock vacation schemes and Career Booster Weeks for the Universities of Leeds and Bradford. Additionally, the firm recently launched a new graduate recruitment website and supporting materials to give further help to those considering a career in law.  The supporting materials were innovative in terms of explaining what was needed and how open it is to everyone, not just the privileged few.

Walker Morris provides highly tailored, long term, strategic advice to clients both in the UK, and internationally. Our diverse collection of lawyers and professionals carry an entrepreneurial spirit and work incredibly hard to elevate clients to greater success.

For further information, Walker Morris has compiled the data and expert analysis into a report titled ‘Social Mobility Report: Making law more accessible’. To find out more and read the full report, click here.