A team of Howard Kennedy's first year trainees who won the Legal Talent Competition last year (see here) were invited to attend the Global Independent Law Firms Forum on 28 March 2019 to present their app idea, Aspire Legal, to a wider audience. The team was asked to discuss how to improve diversity and inclusion in the legal profession at a round table lunch and learn event with the conference attendees.
As a team Jessica Rush, Charlotte Towerton, Josh Page and I (Charlotte Colthurst) presented our app idea, Aspire Legal, to an audience made up of partners and general counsel from law firms and companies from around the world.
The idea behind the app is that it would be aimed at 15-18 year old secondary school students from disadvantaged areas (although usable by all secondary school students) who would traditionally never consider a career in law. Through a series of legal based games and challenges, the app would engage their interest in law and highlight the skills required to pursue a legal career. There would be a separate portal for targetted schools, accessed through a passcode, which would enable the top performing students to gain work experience and scholarships from associated law firms and universities around the country.
After the presentation, we asked our audience to share their experiences of tackling the lack of diversity and inclusion across the profession. Many of the delegates provided personal anecdotes about their recruitment experience, how they choose candidates, what they look for and how their firms and companies try to avoid bias. Apprenticeships and work experience programmes linked to schools were popular choices, along with blind CV checking. We discussed the impossibility of eliminating unconscious bias but suggested that perhaps a way around it is to have such a broad range of people and backgrounds making the decisions that the unconscious bias is somewhat cancelled out. This provided an interesting view from the top and what was more interesting is that the delegates were genuinely very interested in hearing our opinions, what do we look for, how do we choose law firms or companies to work for and how could they make their organisations more attractive.
We highlighted that, first of all, this is exactly how the gap in the market has formed – law firms are interested in how to make their organisations more attractive to those already looking for jobs in the legal sector. We highlighted the obvious, a good work life balance – interesting work and clients – clear career progression – flexible working – decent salaries – supervision and responsibility; and we mooted the idea of the 4 day week.
Our app aims to tackle this gap and to encourage law firms to concentrate more energy on how to attract talent from a pool of candidates who are not even considering law at all (because they wrongly think either they are not good enough or lack connections or academic ability). The priority for law firms should not be to make them more attractive to those of us already set on becoming lawyers (although this should not be ignored and improvements are always necessary) but to make them more attractive to those who consider law out of their reach.
If you would like to hear any more about our experience of entering/winning the Legal Talent Competition or, more importantly, about our app idea, Aspire Legal, please contact one of us directly.