For the second year running law firm Browne Jacobson has topped the latest Social Mobility Index ahead of big-hitters Grant Thornton, PwC, KPMG and Accenture with law firms again making up the highest proportion of entrants.
But chair of the Social Mobility Foundation, Alan Milburn, said that despite the forward moves made by many firms there were still problems and that this year had seen a reduction in the quality of many submissions.
The Social Mobility Foundation said it was again impressed by Browne Jacobson’s initiatives to open up the legal profession for young people of all backgrounds, especially those from socially disadvantaged groups and regions across the country, with the firm’s school outreach work attracting high praise.
All of the firm’s outreach was conducted at non-selective state schools and 62% of the young people who took part were eligible for free school meals. Browne Jacobson also introduced a mentoring scheme specifically for aspiring young black lawyers to address the under-representation of this group across the profession and partnered with Forage, a leading global virtual platform, to launch a “free to access” work experience programme for 16-18 year olds.
Caroline Green, senior partner at Browne Jacobson, who leads on diversity, inclusion and well-being at the firm, said: “As a firm we recognise that academic qualifications are not the only measure of success and the initiatives we have implemented have significantly widened the pool of talent as well as fostering a more diverse and inclusive workforce.”
The Social Mobility Foundation said it had received 149 entries in total, with 34 employers entering for the first time, and 115 returning organisations.
The top 10 firms were
- Browne Jacobson (law)
- Grant Thornton (professional services)
- KPMG (professional services)
- PwC (professional services)
- Severn Trent (water utility)
- Accenture (professional services)
- Herbert Smith Freehills (law)
- Baker McKenzie (law)
- Squire Patton Boggs (law)
- Enterprise Rent a Car (vehicle hire)
The most represented sectors were law (34% of entrants), the public sector (15%) and banking, financial services and insurance who made up 11% of entrants. However, said the Foundation: “Highly represented sectors are not always the best performers. Law firms, for example, continue to disproportionately visit and recruit from Russell Group universities. On average, returning entrants performed better as they adopted our guidance and sought to progress.”
Milburn, said that while there were reasons for optimism some aspects of this year’s Index were disappointing. He said there was evidence that the momentum among employers to embrace the social mobility challenge was being lost. “We have seen a notable drop in the quality and quantity of submissions to the Index. It is deeply disappointing that nine employers are still offering unpaid internships during a cost-of-living crisis, meaning nearly 500 young people effectively work for free.
“Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not and penalising young people who are not able to work for free is unacceptable. Similarly, the phenomenon of graduate scheme ‘exit fees’ – where young people are financially penalised for deciding against their chosen career once they gain experience of it for the first time – must be eliminated.”