Increasing socio-economic diversity in professional services firms starts with the applicant pipeline.
Potential applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds often deselect themselves before considering careers in these sectors. They make assumptions about the types of people who work in them; and a lack of clear role models allows these negative stereotypes to persist.
Allen & Overy’s Smart Start programme aims to change these perceptions by granting more young people access to the inside of a law firm, providing a glimpse into the life of an entry level lawyer and the range of different roles and people who work there. For one week each year, Year 12 students from schools and colleges across the UK take part in workshops to build their aspirations, develop their skills, meet senior staff and clients, and learn tips on interview technique, CV writing and presenting themselves effectively.
Allen & Overy is also working with social mobility charity upReach to provide career guidance and support to young people who have been on the Smart Start programme, to help level the playing field with peers who may already be aware of work experience schemes, internships and other opportunities. The firm is now seeing applications from, and offering training contracts to, participants in the programme.
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