Slaughter and May announces new bursary scheme to support increased diversity in the legal sector

The firm will financially support 10 high-potential candidates from less advantaged backgrounds a year, working alongside social mobility charity upReach.

Leading international law firm Slaughter and May today announces the launch of the Slaughter and May Scholarship Scheme, which will provide bursaries to high-potential undergraduates from less advantaged backgrounds interested in a career in law. Successful candidates will also receive tailored leadership development opportunities and training.

The Scholarship Scheme is an extension of the firm’s existing Law Springboard programme with social mobility charity upReach, which launched in April 2019.

Slaughter and May has committed to fund three cohorts of 10 students per year, for three years of university study. The bursary will equate to £3,000 per student per year, representing a £270,000 investment over five years from the firm.

“The launch of the Scholarship Scheme is significant, because even with the support currently in place to fund tuition fees, there are still many financial barriers”, says Jane Edwarde, Real Estate and D&I partner at Slaughter and May. The National Union of Students found that 40% of full time higher education students had considered leaving their course, with half of those who considered leaving citing financial reasons. Jane continues: “During the pandemic we have seen students from less advantaged backgrounds being hardest hit, and so we hope this scheme will help bolster promising young lawyers at a difficult time.”

Harry Bacon, a corporate partner at Slaughter and May who will join the judging panel, said: “We are really pleased to extend our partnership with upReach through the launch of this new bursary scheme. Two years in, The Law Springboard programme is helping candidates from all backgrounds to access the legal sector. We are thrilled to see the talent already emerging through the scheme.

“Financial concerns deter many young people from pursuing a university education. Students from lower income backgrounds often work part time to fund their studies, which means they miss out on valuable study time and find the university experience less enriching. These bursaries will help to give students a better university experience with more opportunity at the end of it.”

The Law Springboard programme is currently focused on its third cohort of students. Of the 90 students on the programme, 25 will be offered work experience with Slaughter and May, up to 50 will be paired with a mentor from the firm to help provide career support and guidance.

The Law Springboard programme’s underlying objective is to add greater diversity to the legal sector by encouraging young people from all backgrounds to consider a professional career, in the legal sector and even beyond. Five students from previous cohorts have accepted training contracts with Slaughter and May following their original participation in the programme. 96% of participants believe that the programme has given them access to opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have had and so far the programme has supported students to gain 50 vacation scheme offers and 17 training contract offers across a range of law firms.

John Craven, CEO at upReach, said: “We’re delighted to help facilitate the Slaughter and May Scholarship Scheme, which will support ten upReach Associates each year with regular financial support and leadership development opportunities throughout their time at university.

“upReach research has shown that balancing part-time work alongside study can hold back some high potential students from less-advantaged backgrounds. Pre-pandemic, due to financial necessity, over a quarter of our students were doing over 16 hours of paid work per week, sometimes to the detriment of their studies or wider university experience.

“Against this backdrop, financial support can level the playing field, helping students dedicate more time to achieving their academic potential, and participating in extracurricular activities that build crucial “soft skills” like leadership and communication - both of which can make them more competitive in the graduate job market.

“The Scholarship Scheme builds on our wider Law Springboard programme with Slaughter and May, which in 2020-21 supported 39 students to secure vacation schemes or early training contract offers.”

Rachael Seymour, a future Slaughter and May trainee, said: “Without upReach’s help, I wouldn’t have secured a Training Contract at Slaughter and May. They were instrumental in giving me the confidence to apply and guiding me through the application process. The Video Forums and One-to-Ones helped me to develop a deeper understanding of the firm which was key in my application. The Mock Interviews helped me understand what would be expected of me, as I had never had an interview before, and encouraged me to unpick and reflect on my experiences. It prepared me extremely well. I cannot thank upReach enough.”

Ismaeel Hitar, a future Slaughter and May trainee, said: “[Through the Law Springboard] I have participated in exclusive opportunities I would not otherwise have had access to… alongside being able to access invaluable 1-to-1 application support from my Programme Coordinator. I have also built essential skills which have helped me to stand out from other candidates, as well as to excel in my applications on the first try… I'm proud to have secured numerous career opportunities as a result!"

About upReach

upReach was founded in 2012 on a simple premise of fairness - equal access to top jobs regardless of social background. upReach is addressing this social mobility challenge. It helps young people achieve their career potential by providing an intensive, personalised programme of support that addresses socio-economic barriers to graduate employment. Its comprehensive programmes are delivered in person and online, with upReach ‘Associates’ (undergraduates participating in our programmes) gaining access to activities including skills workshops, mentoring, insight events, application support and professional work experience.

It partners closely with universities, supporting the progression of their widening participation students into graduate employment by broadening horizons, raising aspirations and creating an action plan to achieve career goals. Its partner employers provide opportunities for our Associates to build career knowledge, understand pathways and gain valuable experience, helping to level the playing field.