Legal Business

DISSENT: Do you know Titian? Berating law firms on social mobility belies commercial realities

RollOnFriday founder Matthew Rhodes argues it is education – not an increasingly meritocratic profession – that is to blame for lack of social mobility in law.

Earlier this year Westminster School offered a mini-pupillage at a barrister’s chambers as a lot in a charity auction. The story hit the national press – The Guardian fumed: ‘Fancy a career in the law? A mini-pupillage with a criminal barrister can be Freddie’s for offers over £650.’ The Social Mobility Foundation complained, the Bar Standards Board felt obliged to investigate. All hell broke loose, over a week’s work experience for a teenager.

A bit of an overreaction? Given the kicking the profession is currently getting for not providing sufficiently broad access, perhaps it’s an understandable one.

I declare an interest: I went to Westminster. A few weeks before this story broke I attended a dinner for lawyers who had been at the school. The 80-odd guests that turned up included five High Court judges, the Attorney General and the President of the Supreme Court. From just one school. Alan Milburn, whose 2012 ‘Fair Access to Professional Careers’ report castigated the profession for not doing enough to encourage social diversity, would have had a seizure.