Herbert Smith Freehills and Travers Smith join Rares legal programme promoting social mobility
Herbert Smith Freehills and Travers Smith join as sponsors of Discuss. The programme is for brilliant students who are interested in a career in commercial law. The students will come from backgrounds assessed as being socially disadvantaged and will study any degree at any UK university.
Discuss, which is now entering its third year, was developed by graduate diversity specialists Rare. Highlighted in the recent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission report into social mobility in the professions[i], Rare pioneered the programme in 2013-14 in partnership with Clifford Chance and Oxford University. Since then it has expanded in terms of the clients and universities involved. Beyond newcomers Herbert Smith Freehills and Travers Smith, other programme partners include Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, and Slaughter and May.
Caroline Edwards, partner at Travers Smith, said, “Travers Smith is proud to be part of this remarkable programme. It is a natural extension of the highly productive relationship we have had with Rare for the past seven years. We are looking to recruiting candidates who are brilliant, motivated and committed to a career in law. These qualities are not defined by socioeconomic background. We believe that Discuss is the perfect platform for identifying excellent candidates who will thrive at Travers Smith whatever their circumstances.”
Discuss is modelled on Rare’s award-winning Articles programme for ethnic minority candidates – It improves participants’ technical knowledge and understanding of commercial law through intensive one-on-one support from Rare Director and ex-Magic Circle lawyer, Melissa Andrewes, and ex Beachcroft Wansborough (now DAC Beachcroft) partner, Gaynor Clements. The programme also includes group sessions at each of the partner firms. These are attended by partners, associates, trainees and graduate recruitment team members, and improve participants’ awareness of corporate law as well as of firms’ specific application processes.
As with all its development programmes, Rare uses its ground-breaking Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) to assess and monitor the socioeconomic characteristics of applicants to Discuss. Described as “recruitment rocket science” and “game changing” by clients, the CRS is the UK’s first algorithm-based recruitment tool that quantifies social disadvantage and calculates the relative out- or underperformance of applicants based on context and his/her unique set of personal circumstances. In doing so, the CRS enables recruiters of top firms to discern potential from polish.
Speaking about Herbert Smith Freehills’ involvement in the programme, Veronica Roberts, Graduate Recruitment Partner, said, “Being part of the Discuss programme is particularly exciting for us, not just because we have recently signed up for the Rare CRS for the coming recruitment season, but also because we are going to be involved in a programme that truly levels the playing field for candidates who may lack access to the information, networks and insights that might have been afforded to others. As such it allows the truly excellent to shine and show their true potential.”
Speaking about the growth of the Discuss programme Rare Director, former City lawyer and Head of Students at the University of Law, Melissa Andrewes said: “We welcome Herbert Smith Freehills and Travers Smith to the 2015/6 Discuss programme. Competition for vacation scheme places is fiercer than ever and application and interview processes are rigorous. Top law firms use a range of assessments including ability tests, case studies and one-on-one commercial awareness interviews to help them decide who to hire. These assessments are designed to measure ability but inevitably having confidence and social capital gives certain students an advantage. This programme aims to enable Discuss students to develop their enormous potential, securing a place on a vacation scheme and, beyond, a successful career in law.”
Last year, twelve Discuss candidates secured vacation scheme offers from the three firms on the 2014/15 programme – Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, and Slaughter and May.
Speaking about her time on the Discuss programme, one Discuss programme alumna said, “The Discuss programme was a fantastic opportunity to get an insight into what law firms were really searching for. Having started the scheme with a very vague understanding of what skills were required to be a commercial lawyer, let alone what the dreaded commercial awareness was and how to fill in an application form, after a few sessions and amazing one-to-one feedback on applications I was far more knowledgeable. I am delighted that I managed to secure a vacation scheme and I very much doubt I would have secured the offer without the expertise of Melissa and the team.”