Legal Business Blogs

Putting things in context: Magic Circle commits to social mobility tool after highly critical report

Eight elite City firms have adopted a contextual recruitment tool designed to boost social mobility in their ranks after a government report criticised professional services firms for ‘systematically excluding bright working-class applicants’ from their workforce.

Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance (CC), Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters have all pledged to use a recruitment tool made by Rare that charts academic success against a candidate’s background to measure whether the individual has outperformed their peers. The move follows research from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission in July that revealed CC, A&O and Slaughters each hired around 40% of their trainees from fee-paying schools.

With Ashurst, Baker & McKenzie, Herbert Smith Freehills and Hogan Lovells having already adopted the programme, the legal profession, which has been slower to push social and gender diversity in the workplace than other professions, appears to have accelerated a move towards a fairer recruitment system to produce a more diverse workforce.

Macfarlanes, Norton Rose Fulbright and Travers Smith have also moved to adopt Rare’s tool, which hardwires social mobility metrics into law firms’ existing graduate recruitment databases in a bid to measure potential. The eight firms aim to integrate Rare into their own application systems during the 2015/16 graduate recruitment season.

Simon Branigan, Linklaters’ graduate recruitment partner, told Legal Business: ”This is what has been missing because blind interviewing is a relatively unsophisticated way of doing things and this will not only help get people through the door for an interview, but inform our final hiring decisions.

We get so many applications that it is impossible to interview everyone that makes the grade so you do need to whittle it down. This will be a more sophisticated tool so that some of those people who may have got whittled down come to the interviews. Most people will have two As and a B at A-level but having two As and a B from a public school is different from getting that at a tough comprehensive. It might in some circumstances show drive on behalf of that individual.’

Laura King, global head of people and talent at Clifford Chance, said: ‘The two-year project has involved careful, painstaking research, and put practical application at its centre from the start. Clifford Chance is committed to hiring the best talent irrespective of background and using innovative, technology-based tools like the CRS to aid our expert recruiters is a natural way to ensure that we hire this talent from the widest pool possible.’

For more on social mobility and the legal profession see: Small gestures – can a new wave of social inclusion schemes deliver?