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FBC Manby Bowdler spearheads action plan to open up law

FBC Manby Bowdler spearheads action plan to open up law


A major new campaign to open up a career in the law to more people has been launched in Parliament

FBC Manby Bowdler is part of a collaboration between a number of law firms and the Purpose Coalition which produced the Breaking Down Barriers to Law: Phase 1 report which was unveiled in Parliament this week.

The report calls for a strategic, countrywide approach to embedding social mobility in the legal sector.

It focuses on the four key areas of outreach, access, recruitment and progression where those from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds face the greatest barriers.

A number of Purpose Coalition university partners also took part in the project to contribute a vital higher education perspective.

The report showcases best practice examples from across the country to open up careers in the law which include:

• Outreach activities to primary and secondary schools, as well as to those who may have been out of the workplace for some time

• Work experience and open days to give valuable insights into legal practice, providing information and knowledge about the range of opportunities that law firms can offer, including apprenticeships and non-traditional career paths

• The adoption of name blind recruitment and contextual recruitment practices to encourage a more level playing field in recruitment practices

• Career development programmes, inclusion schemes and mentorships to support those from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds to stay in the sector and thrive

FBC Manby Bowdler managing partner Neil Lloyd said: “For too long law has been seen as a career for privately-educated students or well-off graduates with a degree. Breaking Down Barriers to Law is about changing that and highlighting alternative paths into the industry.

“I am delighted to be part of this campaign, working alongside other law firms, to ensure that the legal industry more accurately reflects society and that we seek to engage with the most talented candidates whatever their backgrounds.

“FBC Manby Bowdler has been actively looking to clear the path into law careers for some time and our commitment is certainly paying off, with our apprentices thriving in their new careers.

“As someone who also took a non-traditional route to where I am now – I don’t have a legal background yet I head one of the Midlands’ leading law firms – I am passionate about ensuring we get the best people into the industry regardless of where they are from or who they might know.”

Neil was joined in London by FBC Manby Bowdler’s HR director Sarah Bond-Williams, who has worked tirelessly to improve access to careers in law for people from all backgrounds.

The discussions helped develop a series of recommendations for short and long-term action.

In the short-term, these range from the establishment of outreach links with a network of universities, schools and colleges in social mobility cold spots to collecting, tracking and reporting socio-economic data at every level of seniority to ensure progression is fair.

In the longer term, recommendations include the development of a collective multi-channel social media campaign focusing on demystifying the legal sector and additional SQE support courses and resources for apprentices, trainees and paralegals.

Speaking at the launch, former education secretary Justine Greening praised the work.

“I am incredibly proud of the work that this Breaking Down Barriers to Law Taskforce has undertaken. By pooling their resources, sharing insights and demonstrating sector-leading best practice, the participating firms have demonstrated real commitment to delivering social impact in the areas they serve.

“The frank discussions on the challenges facing the legal sector as they seek to address the issue of poor social mobility were wide-ranging and constructive and have helped inform the recommendations for future action in the report which are demanding but achievable. The project has shown how collaboration and partnership can make a significant impact on the development of positive solutions.

“The legal sector has long been seen as a closed shop for many who might aspire to work in it. There has been undoubted progress – and the best practice featured in the report shows the difference that tailored action can make - but there is still much more to do.

“It’s clear that there is an appetite for change, and it is increasingly the case that those who demonstrate the most effective social impact in the legal sector and in the wider business world will attract the largest talent pool. I am looking forward to continuing to work with the Taskforce as they implement the recommendations and as we move on to the next phases of our work.”

Chair of the Breaking Down Barriers Commission and former member of Sir Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet, Nick Forbes CBE said: “The Breaking Down Barriers to Law project, and this Action Plan, demonstrate the positive impact that working in partnership can bring.

“In a sector that is critical to the economy, this collaboration has seen a laser-like focus on the elements that are essential to creating career pathways beyond the traditional networks of the right family, school or university, if it is to open up opportunities to those from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds.

“I hope that it will inspire others in the legal sector, and in professional services more widely, who may be at different stages in their social mobility journey, to consider how they might also take the steps that will deliver equality of opportunity in their businesses.”

Further phases of the project will scale up impact and progress, with a focus on the supply chain and community impact.