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Increasing gender, ethnic and social diversity is a widely discussed subject in most industries these days, especially within the legal profession. Whilst there is visible progress with regard to efforts to increase gender and ethnic diversity in particular, dealing with social mobility is a much more complex issue. However, to start addressing the issue we need to first acknowledge the difference between gender and ethnicity, and social mobility because they have different causes and effects.
We then need to start from the basics. According to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission only 7% of UK schoolchildren attend independent schools, yet they make up 43% of Oxford’s undergraduates, 37% of Cambridge’s and around 23% of Manchester’s. These statistics clearly show that as a society we have an issue with social mobility, but within the legal profession this issue seems to limit students at every level. According to the Chambers Student survey from 2010-2012, it appears that the profession continues to limit their access to the legal market, as firms predominately accept trainees who graduate from a select number of universities; 16.4% of law trainees come from Oxbridge and 79.3% come from the Russell Group universities, which is made up of only 24 universities.
The problem in the legal industry is that you cannot qualify as a lawyer unless you have a training contract; 2 years hands-on training, usually within a law firm. So, what if you did not go to a Russell Group university? How do you qualify as a lawyer? The short answer is, you do not. We have a barrier to entry which is automatically stacked against those who are not from independent schools.
So, law firms hire from top
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