An innovative approach to Diversity and Inclusion in the legal profession

An innovative approach to Diversity and Inclusion in the legal profession

Last month saw the launch of the Legal Social Mobility Partnership (LSMP) Brighton cluster, led by Sophie Gould, Head of LexisPSL, In-house.

Now reaching over 300 students, the main aim of the LSMP is to broaden access to the legal profession and develop students’ career aspirations. Initially started in London in 2014, it has also expanded to Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol and Reading.

Supporting the next generation

Over a packed week, several students were put through their paces as they gained invaluable knowledge and skills to help them in their future careers, together with an insight into the legal profession.

This included workshops with lawyers from the in-house teams at American Express, Southern Water, Virgin Atlantic and ITV and law firms Dentons and Mayo Wynne Baxter. The sessions covered routes into the profession, legal research skills and case studies.  They also helped students develop influencing and presentation skills and learn about personal resilience and team building.

Students were also able to participate in 'pseudo-negotiations' and gain insight into how negotiations work in the legal services industry providing the opportunity to build on their communication and leadership skills.

“I spent this week on the LSMP work experience program and it has honestly been one of the most insightful and useful weeks in preparing me for the future. I gained a lot of skills that will help me not just in a legal career but in life as well.” student at BHASVIC Sixth Form College

“I had an amazing experience on the LSMP work experience program last week. It gave me such a good insight into the legal profession and the knowledge and skills I gained will be indispensable in my future career.” student at Varndean College

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A new approach for a new generation

Most recently the LSMP has been shortlisted in the Innovation category for the 2017 UK Social Mobility Awards.

The programme is a collaboration between law firms and In-house teams as well as commercial organisations and professional sports clubs which allows students from non-privileged backgrounds to gain an understanding of the legal profession in the context of business through intensive skills training and business games.

This is strengthened by ongoing support from virtual coaches who are on hand to aid with CVs, filling in application forms and interview preparation and a dedicated website to provide current students of the programme and alumni greater support through a sign-up for alumni events and a ‘Find a Virtual Coach’ function.

Barry Matthews, Director of Legal Affairs & Third Party Sales at ITV, a founding LSMP company, said: “I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved without paid staff or a formal budget, growing from providing 20 places in London in 2014 to 300 across seven towns and cities in 2017. We are all great believers in collaboration and the promotion of fairness in society. The LSMP is evidence of the power of partnerships.”

Sarah Macdonald, Chief Counsel at BT said: “It is important to BT that we play our part in creating a level playing field in the legal profession. Programmes like the LSMP give those students, who would not otherwise have access to work experience or contacts in the profession, a chance to develop their skills, broaden their horizons and build up a network of students in similar circumstances. We are proud to be supporting this excellent programme for a third year running, helping to give more students an ‘edge’ in their university applications and greater confidence to pursue the careers they seek.”

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About the author:

Sophie is Head of Learning & Development at F-LEX Legal - an award winning legal tech startup helping law firms and organisations manage a flexible work force and supporting lawyers to make smarter life/work choices. 

As part of her portfolio career Sophie runs various learning and development and networking forums for in-house lawyers and mentors junior lawyers.  These include Flying Solo for small and solo legal teams and Aspire for junior in-house lawyers which she runs for LexisNexis UK.  She also works with schools and organisations to promote social mobility within the legal profession, working with The Social Mobility Business Partnership and Aspiring Solicitors. 

She trained as a lawyer in the City and worked as an in-house lawyer for 10 years including as Head of Legal for Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group.  

Outside of work she is happily married with three sons and enjoys morning walks along the beach with her two dogs.