A substantial social mobility programme to support school and college students from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds aspiring to study law and join the legal profession is announced today (24 Jun) by Wadham College, University of Oxford and global law firm, Linklaters. 

The programme aims to support access to law at university and careers in the legal sector adopting a “life cycle” approach to address specific barriers at key stages from pre-application to post-graduation. 

Fionnghuala Griggs, trainee recruitment partner at Linklaters, comments: “Improving the socio-economic diversity of the legal profession requires action at every stage of the career cycle, starting from school level. The programme will look to ensure that talented candidates can achieve their full potential and aren’t excluded before they even have a chance to embark on their legal career just because they may be from a less privileged background. An individual’s socio-economic circumstances should not be a barrier to a successful career in the law.”

Ken Macdonald QC, Warden of Wadham College added:

“The lack of socio-economic diversity in law at university and beyond is due to a range of factors affecting an individual’s path to university, success on course and career prospects after graduation. This pioneering programme is designed to address these factors, and we are grateful to Linklaters for their transformative support.”

Wadham’s ambitious Access to Excellence programme is already supporting thousands of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds with their applications to Oxford every year. The College is therefore uniquely placed to focus on early outreach and engagement with young people and to support their journey into the study of law, and into the workplace – collaborating with stakeholders including Linklaters at each stage.

The two-year pre-university programme will engage sixth formers from non-selective state schools in Wadham’s link regions of Bedford, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Luton and the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Islington, Newham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets. All students selected for the programme will need to be eligible for free school meals. 

Students will receive tutoring and support with critical thinking from Wadham law tutors, as well as university application and career advice.

For current law undergraduates, the programme provides law career guidance with targeted support for Linklaters’ trainee recruitment programmes. Law undergraduates will also be invited to a series of networking events involving Wadham alumni and Linklaters.

A teachers’ advisory panel involving Linklaters, Wadham law tutors, school teachers and Oxford University Department of Education will create programme resources available through an online portal, led by a dedicated post-graduate Wadham staff member.

“We are emphasising the scalability of this programme. Programme resources can be re-purposed to allow them to be used beyond the participants, contributing a series of valuable online resources that help to develop the analytical skills needed to study Law at Oxford and elsewhere,” said Sandy Steel, Oxford Associate Professor of Law and Fellow and Tutor in Law at Wadham College.

Evaluation support for the programme will be provided by The Bridge Group working with Linklaters, Wadham College and the University of Oxford. 

 Linklaters has a longstanding commitment to advancing social mobility in the legal sector, as one of the global priorities within the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy. The programme is an extension of the firm’s Making Links social mobility-focused recruitment work, including Making Links Discovery, a bespoke programme the firm recently launched designed to open up access to a career in the law for 16 to 18 year old students across the UK.

Eligibility criteria focus on: Location, performance at GCSE, school type and widening participation criteria.

Eligible pupils will attend a non-selective state school in Wadham’s link regions: Bedford, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Luton and the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Islington, Newham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets.

Eligible pupils will have performed in line with the pre-16 performance needed to make a competitive application for the undergraduate law programme at Oxford and be eligible for Free School Meals (or be Ever 6 FSM).

Alongside these ‘hard’ criteria, the cohort of selected pupils should be reflective of the ethnic diversity of the link regions above.

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