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Freshfields launches new social mobility outreach programme in the UK

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (‘Freshfields’) has launched the Freshfields Aspiring Professionals Programme in the UK, in partnership with the Social Mobility Foundation, to promote social mobility and racial equality in professional careers.

The three-year programme will welcome a cohort of 100 students each year from lower socio-economic and racially diverse backgrounds across the UK, helping those from social mobility ‘cold spots’ gain access to professional careers. Students aged 16-17 will take part in work shadowing and skills sessions led by Freshfields’ employees, and will be eligible for a paid internship at one of the firm’s UK offices. For this year’s cohort, the programme will run until 2024, enabling Freshfields to provide long-term support at a crucial stage of the students’ lives.

The students will also receive mentorship from Freshfields’ employees at varying levels of seniority across all legal and business departments of the firm. 

“We are delighted to partner with the Social Mobility Foundation to launch the Freshfields Aspiring Professionals Programme as part of our ongoing commitment to tackling social mobility,” said London managing partner Claire Wills. “We strongly believe that career success should not be defined by an individual’s social background or ethnicity, and we feel we need to do what we can to address the systemic issues which create barriers for many.

“The new programme will enable us to reach those with less access to privilege and opportunity, and help equip them with the tools and knowledge to succeed. Increasing diversity and inclusion across the legal profession is not only the right thing to do, it’s essential for our business and for society. We are really looking forward to welcoming the first cohort,” Claire added.

Olivia Balson, Global Centre director, commented: “The launch of the programme has landed at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on the less-socially mobile communities in our society. The importance of initiatives to make an impact is magnified. Through this programme, we will aim to provide insights into professional careers, across our legal and business services functions, raise professional confidence, increase aspirations and encourage the building of professional networks. It’s something we are all really looking forward to being a part of.”

The Aspiring Professionals Programme is the latest initiative in the firm’s broader commitment to social mobility, and adds to several partnerships and programmes already in place to tackle the issue globally. In the UK the programme will run in tandem to the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme, which seeks to address the disproportionate under-representation of black men from less socially mobile backgrounds in large commercial law firms and other careers in the City of London. The scheme selected 13 new scholars in November 2020, bringing the total number of scholarship awards to 82, and last month launched its ninth year working with universities nationwide to identify exceptionally-talented eligible first year students for nomination to the 2021 scheme.

Sarah Atkinson, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation, added: “The pandemic has highlighted and increased the barriers which prevent disadvantaged young people achieving their potential, but it has also inspired businesses to respond to the challenge and invest in social mobility. Freshfields has created an innovative programme which will offer opportunities for 300 young people to build their confidence, knowledge and networks. This is a significant commitment from Freshfields and we are delighted to have been chosen to partner with them to deliver this exciting programme. We can’t wait to welcome the first cohort of students and start them on their journey.”

ENDS

The Freshfields team was led by: