The Lawscot Foundation was set up by the Law Society of Scotland in 2016. The aim? To enable the brightest and best students to qualify in law, regardless of financial circumstances.
Despite there being no fees for most students in Scotland, Scottish pupils from the least advantaged backgrounds are the least likely in the UK to attend higher education. We wanted, in some small way, to help change that.
To make a real difference, we needed to provide practical help and support. Lawscot Foundation offers suitable applicants a bursary, mentoring and networking opportunities.
Research by the Poverty Alliance found that bursaries, scholarships and grants are the most effective intervention to increase access to higher education. As a result, the Foundation committed to issuing a meaningful grant to every successful applicant throughout their studies: £12,500 in total for those completing the four-year degree and the Diploma.
Our students tell us the grant helps meet the costs of rent, books, materials and travel. For many, it also helps reduce the hours they work while studying, creating a more level playing field with their peers.
The research also noted that availability of grants and bursaries leads to outcomes including improved attainment in higher education, and improved qualification completion. Our students' overall retention rate is 97% – far higher than the average.
Equally important are the mentoring support and career development opportunities we offer. Indeed, the students rated these on a par with the bursary. Each student is paired with a solicitor or advocate mentor, along with a student buddy. Mentors are trained in practical skills to support our students on a range of topics, from budgeting help to careers advice.
We are also delighted to have a number of sponsor firms and organisations that have provided many career development and networking opportunities, along with financial support. Their involvement has ensured we can support more students each year and offer them unique and exciting opportunities. We now support 29 LLB students, across nine Scottish universities, and the first seven will graduate this year – a big milestone for us!
What of the next five years? We hope to increase our fundraising: since we launched, we've supported 10% of the applications received and we want to increase this figure. The applications are, without exception, impressive and sobering and it is very difficult for the trustees to decide who to support. We would also like to broaden our mentoring, provide work experience and internships, all making the playing field as level as we can.
The Foundation can only continue if we receive donations – from individuals, firms and organisations. If every Scottish solicitor donated £10 a year, we could support an additional 40 students and make a huge contribution to a fairer and more diverse profession.
Please contact us to find out more about getting involved. Here's to the next five years and a diverse and talented next generation of lawyers.
Final year student, University of Dundee
Lawscot Foundation has supported me in a multitude of ways – primarily financial support, mentoring, and networking opportunities. A lot of my success at university can be attributed to the Foundation, as it removed many barriers to studying law.
I am from what is described as a “socioeconomically disadvantaged area”, which for many has been a significant barrier. Support from the Foundation has meant that I haven't had to worry about affording class and study materials, an incredible burden for many from similar backgrounds.
Moving out of the family home is financially onerous, and the Foundation enabled me to do this and attend my preferred university. It also meant I didn't have to get a job during term time, and could fully focus on my studies.
In addition to the financial support, we are paired with a mentor, who you meet regularly to discuss how your studies are going and who offers advice and support where possible. One effect of socioeconomic disadvantage is not knowing people in the profession who can give practical insights and advice – I attribute a lot of my success to having a mentor I could rely on when university got tough.
There are also many networking opportunities. Through the Foundation, I have met a variety of people in the profession – solicitors, in-house solicitors, advocates and judges. This has given me insights into the profession, which can help choose a career path.
The opportunities and the support have been instrumental in my LLB studies and I wouldn't be where I am today without the generosity of the Foundation and its supporters.
Final year student, University of Dundee
My time at university started with ambitious applications for a course I lacked the qualifications for. After completing summer school at Dundee, however, I was offered a place on the English and Scots Dual Qualifying LLB, which gave very attractive prospects. Though ecstatic to be moving away from home, I was sceptical how I would manage both financially and career-wise, as I knew no one in the industry. These worries were eased when my school careers adviser directed me to the Lawscot Foundation.
It seemed a great initiative, so I applied and was awarded a place. At that point I didn't fully understand the extent of the support. The financial and mentoring support has meant I have not had to worry about buying books, rent or limiting my university experience; I have been able to speak with my mentor about any worries, get insights into her university and professional experience and, ultimately, build a relationship with someone active in the law.
But the Foundation does much more. It has allowed us to experience different legal settings first-hand, helping us decide what career is right for us. It has allowed us to network and make contacts that we would not otherwise have. It has, importantly, introduced us to other students with the same worries and ambitions.
The hardest parts of my degree have been eased by the Foundation's support, putting me on an even playing field with my peers. I can now fully appreciate what the Foundation has done for me, and how it is supporting me in my next endeavour of securing a traineeship.
Third-year student, Glasgow Caledonian University
Lawscot Foundation has helped change my life. It came at a time when I needed it most – having left school at age 16 with little support behind me, and the first in my family to go to university. It seemed very daunting.
However, my life experiences – care experienced, bereaved of a parent at a young age, bullied, living with a single parent on a low income, and homelessness – have given me the drive, determination and resilience to succeed, and achieve my dream career in law. The Foundation has allowed me to get on the ladder and for that I am immensely grateful.
Starting the LLB at age 17 was hard, but the support of a student mentor and qualified solicitor helped massively, discussing both small queries and the “big picture”. For example, I had never been taught to reference, so I panicked when my first assignment came up. My student mentor was able to keep me right. I found we had much in common, and it was nice to see someone like him as a Diploma student – a target to reach.
The Foundation's networking and work experience opportunities are unique. I applied for work experience at MTM Defence Solicitors, open only to Foundation students. This involved a CV application and the most intense interview I have ever experienced, which has given me invaluable skills I can apply in future. I was chosen, and the experience is one I will never forget.
The bursary has helped to relieve a lot of financial stress, allowing me to become financially independent and stable enough to pay rent, live comfortably and obtain equipment and books. An enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders, which I am endlessly thankful for. I owe everything to the Foundation for helping towards enabling my dreams to come true.
The Royal Bank of Scotland
RBS has supported the Lawscot Foundation as a Platinum sponsor from its inception. Its aims and objectives resonated strongly with us. In trying to promote fair access and opportunities for the less advantaged and removing barriers to entry to the profession, we recognised the Foundation as aligned with our own values and purpose as a bank.
Supporting the Foundation has also allowed us to role model behaviours that we expect from law firms supporting the bank: to get behind progressive ideas to positively effect change in the profession and benefit the lives of future lawyers.
Our relationship with the Foundation has grown during our involvement, with our lawyers mentoring the students and sitting on the fundraising committee, strengthening our relationship with the Foundation and providing valuable experience for our own lawyers.
We have been delighted to learn how the students have benefitted from the opportunities created, and congratulate the Society on launching the Foundation. We wish it continued success and every student a long and happy career.
Nick Scott, managing partner, Brodies LLP
We recognise the skills, experience and perspective that a diverse and representative workforce delivers, and the value it brings for our clients, firm and colleagues. The pool of talent across Scotland is full, but the number of opportunities less so. That is where initiatives like Lawscot Foundation play a fundamental role, creating possibilities for individuals with academic talent and potential, and facilitating relationships with the firms and people within our sector who can open doors and provide mentorship.
Collectively, the legal profession has a responsibility to our sector and to those beginning their careers, to do what we can to provide learning and development opportunities – and ensure that those opportunities are known far and wide. We recognise there is more we can all do to improve access to the opportunities we create. Collaboration across the sector, and continuing to work with organisations such as the Foundation, are some of the ways we all can achieve that.
- 8 of our 29 students act/have acted as young carers
- 16 live in the most deprived area postcodes in Scotland
- 8 spent time in care/homeless shelter
- 14 attended low progression schools
- 12 firms/organisations sponsor us, representing 65% of our total income: Pinsent Masons (Kirk Murdoch Scholarship), the Royal Bank of Scotland (NatWest), Dickson Minto, the Faculty of Advocates, Shepherd & Wedderburn, Brodies, Turcan Connell, Lockton, Burness Paull, BP, the Scottish Council of Law Reporting, and CMS UK.
- 100% of any donation goes straight to providing grants to students.
Heather McKendrick, Lawscot Foundation