On 2nd December we hosted a webinar focused on social mobility and the role that in house legal functions can take to improve social mobility in the legal market.
The panel of speakers comprised of Amanda Callear, senior legal counsel at Volkswagen Group and Tarn Kaur, associate at Shoosmiths as part of the ‘Conversations with Clients’ web-series and was hosted by Sebastian Price, partner at Shoosmiths.
In July 2020, Volkswagen launched a fully funded ‘first-of-its-kind’ legal internship which provides spots to those who are under-represented in the legal profession, in efforts to promote diversity and social mobility in the industry. Amanda spearheaded the initiative, alongside Tarn - who was on secondment with Volkswagen at the time.
In 2019, the Solicitors Regulation Authority found that only a fifth of law firm employees were of an ethnic minority background and under a quarter came from working class backgrounds - the Solicitors Regulation Authority suggests that the legal profession is still heavily influenced by class and ethnicity. Legal professionals have a responsibility to increase the flow of diversity entering the sector and to ensure that those who do enter are afforded the same progression opportunities, regardless of ethnicity or background.
A crucial factor impacting entry into the legal profession is the unspoken requirement for candidates to obtain work experience in order to secure a training contract. While work experience is no doubt beneficial, students from underprivileged backgrounds have greater difficulty in accessing these opportunities, often due to grades and financial restrictions. This is the reason that we collaborated with Volkswagen to launch this internship, bridging that that gap and providing talented individuals with an opportunity which they may not have normally not have had access to.
Amanda contacted a local school and spoke to the head of sixth form who identified two students that were interested in law but hadn’t had the chance to complete any legal experience. Following this, Volkswagen completed the internal processes to ensure that the interns were paid a salary, travel expenses were covered and lunch was provided.
Participants were given the opportunity to work on live legal matters along with being able to attend a number of virtual workshops to assist with their CVs, interview skills and personal branding. They also received insight into private practice, and what it is like working in a law firm through workshops held by Shoosmiths.