Liverpool firms unite to widen access to the law

Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and the city council team up with local law firms to widen access to a profession that remains stubbornly privileged. Tony McDonough reports

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Liverpool law forms are looking to widen access to the profession


Access to legal careers for young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds remains a challenge but a new scheme in Liverpool is looking to accelerate change.

According to data published last year released by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) just 17% of UK lawyers are drawn from lower socio-economic backgrounds compared to 39% of the general population.

It also revealed 23% of lawyers attended a fee-paying school, compared to just 7.5% of the population and 58% came from a family where one or more parents was in a professional occupation. Just 5% are disabled compared to 14% of the general workforce.

However, the legal profession is in better shape when it comes to women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds. More than 50% of lawyers are women and 17% are from an ethnic minority backgrounds

Now Liverpool Chamber of Commerce is joining forces with Liverpool City Council and a number of local law firms in a bid to accelerate change. Those firms include Brabners, Weightmans, MSB , In-House Legal Solutions, Jackson Lees and Carpenters.

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Called the School-Business Network, the initiative will aim to increase access to work experience, raise aspirations and highlight detailed career pathways for students in Liverpool city region. 

It has been created specifically to support students’ who would not normally get the opportunity to work with firms from across the city to raise aspirations and promote careers in law.

Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber, said: “We established the School-Business Network to give students access to meaningful interactions with business owners and entrepreneurs.

“We are hoping to grow the programme to feature a greater number of law firms so that we can continue to create positive outcomes for schools, students and businesses.”


Paul Cherpeau
Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. Picture by Gareth Jones


A launch event, co-ordinated and hosted by Brabners, saw 15 students from colleges and sixth forms across the city region engage in a day-long series of legal skills workshops, precedent case studies and delivering legal arguments.

Usha Sharma, senior associate at Brabners, added: “Diversity and social mobility have long been a challenge for the legal sector.

“While progress has been made in recent years, there is room for us to do so much more as an industry. As a purpose-driven firm, we aim to demonstrate that business can act as a force for good – particularly in contributing to a more inclusive society.”

Cllr Tom Logan, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at the city council, also said: “We want Liverpool to be a city of opportunity. Institutions of the city need to work together to make this happen.

“Linking schools with business is key to making sure that our young people get the best possible opportunity to achieve their potential.”

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