While there has rightly been a great deal of focus on education as the means to improve social mobility, employers also have their part to play.
Increased awareness of the benefits of having a diverse workforce is encouraging employers to think more about their recruitment practices and the value of understanding the impact their own unconscious bias may have in putting up barriers for those candidates outwith their usual recruitment pool.
The Society has launched a pilot programme which aims to help legal employers in Scotland find new talent, while improving the chances for people from a less-advantaged background to pursue their goal of becoming a solicitor, by using technology which can help identify potential in people who may have had to overcome barriers to that ambition.
Social mobility underpins a lot of our outreach work to help ensure talented individuals can flow through the legal education and career pipeline, ultimately ensuring that the legal profession is accessible to individuals from all backgrounds. Universities have been operating contextualised admissions schemes for some time. However, if employers do not take such an approach, students who have been able to study law through a contextualised process may well find that their opportunities are limited at the traineeship recruitment stage, undoing the positive work to support social mobility.
Make recruitment contextualised
Increasingly the Society is approached by employers asking what they can do on a practical level to improve social mobility at their firms or organisations. They are looking for a tangible solution which will not only provide opportunities for talented young people to succeed, but which will help them find excellent recruits for their business.
We know that contextualised recruitment helps uncover what external factors may have contributed to a candidate’s grades and experience, and helps identify self-motivated, driven people. Having had to overcome numerous barriers to achieve a certain outcome demonstrates that those individuals might well have performed even better if those barriers were removed.
That’s why the Society is working in partnership with Rare, which provides cutting-edge data services to help employers make better hiring decisions as part of their trainee recruitment processes. Rare’s contextualised recruitment system allows recruiters to understand candidates’ achievements and experiences in context. The system looks at wider personal circumstances, including those which may have prevented an individual from performing to their fullest potential. For example, they may have been a young carer, or had to work to help support their family if they are growing up in a low income household, or have attended a low-performing school where academic results are well below the national average.
Try it out
No one should be prevented from becoming a solicitor based on their upbringing, and the Society is committed to ensuring that the Scottish legal profession is open to all and can reflect the communities it serves.
Using a contextualised recruitment system is one of the key policy recommendations from the Social Mobility Commission in its 2019 report, and our newly launched pilot programme is designed to allow legal employers in Scotland to join a collective scheme to use Rare’s software as part of an agreement we have facilitated. Our partnership with Rare will allow employers to extend their recruitment toolkit and use the software to consider an individual’s circumstances and analyse the background and any barriers to academic performance of potential trainee solicitors.
Employers eligible for the pilot initiative will pay a set fee per trainee recruited, allowing firms or organisations which may take on just one or two trainees and which wouldn’t normally invest in such software, to participate for a small cost.
We’re excited about this new project, and delighted that two of Scotland’s leading firms, Dickson Minto and Morton Fraser, have already signed up. We are looking forward to seeing the results of the pilot, which is open for participants until summer 2020, and the impact it could have on improving social mobility for candidates who may otherwise be overlooked through traditional recruitment processes.
We want to remove any barriers there may be for people who have the potential to become fantastic Scottish solicitors, and hope that by making the most of available technology, employers are able to find the best people for their business, regardless of their background.To find out more about the pilot see the Law Society of Scotland website at www.lawscot.org.uk/rare
Olivia Moore is interim head of careers and outreach at the Law Society of Scotland
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