A summary of the Law Society of England and Wales’ Diversity Access Scheme and its Ambassadors Project.
The Law Society of England and Wales is committed to ensuring that talented individuals who aspire to a career as a solicitor have fair access and opportunities to pursue their ambition, regardless of their socio-economic background. This includes celebrating solicitors who have achieved professional success, pursuing their ambitions despite financial and social obstacles.
In March 2014, the Society hosted a Social Mobility Dinner as an opportunity to reflect on progress with key stakeholders and to identify opportunities for coordination and increased impact. Stakeholders discussed gaps in the current approach, whilst generating new ideas, one of those mooted being the promotion of role models within the profession, to highlight the importance of equal opportunities.
Of the many accomplished and talented individuals from all walks of life in the solicitor’s profession, many will have experienced and overcome socio-economic hurdles in the pursuit of their career ambitions and professional success. The Law Society’s Ambassadors Project celebrates the success of such solicitors, showcasing their achievements and sharing their stories. It aims to inspire potential entrants from all backgrounds, emphasising that the profession welcomes talent and hard work above all else.
The Project was launched at the Excellence Awards in October 2015 with a photography exhibition, featuring the portraits and short biographies of the 10 solicitor ambassadors. The exhibition together with the full stories of the ambassadors can be found on the Project website.
The Project will run on a rolling annual basis, as a celebration of social diversity and meritocracy in the profession. Each year, 10 inspiring solicitors will be awarded and have their success recognised, creating a ‘bank’ of highly visible role models. It aims to be a flagship celebration, complementing the Society’s other work on social mobility and raising awareness of the issues relating to fair access.
Diversity Access Scheme
This Society’s Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) also aims to increase social diversity in the profession by supporting promising entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds or those facing exceptional obstacles to qualification. Support is given through financial assistance with LPC fees, access to high-quality work experience and professional mentors. Each year, 10 DAS scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate academic ability, determination and commitment to a career in law. The application process is competitive and involves an application form, essay question, assessment and panel interview.
Leila Lesan, the Society’s social mobility and wellbeing policy adviser, confirms that typical DAS candidates are likely to be the first in their families to go to university, having neither well off parents nor contacts in the profession. Lesan comments that such candidates tend to have the advantage of being talented and determined to succeed against the odds.
The DAS PLUS award, piloted in 2015, provides successful candidates working at Law Centres with assistance to cover LPC fees as well as guaranteeing a training contract at a Law Centre. One DAS PLUS award is made annually. Lesan comments that DAS PLUS award will demonstrate the Society’s support to the social advice sector which has been greatly affected by legal aid cuts. Lesan adds that DAS is funded by charitable donations from the Law Society Charity, law schools and a range of corporate sponsors.