The Bursary Scheme: supporting future lawyers
In 2009, Bird & Bird launched the Bird & Bird Bursary Scheme. It seeks to address the financial hurdle that often deters bright people from socially deprived areas of the country from attending University.
The effect of this hurdle is perceived by the firm to be a contributing factor in the under-representation of people from disadvantaged backgrounds within the legal profession; the objective of this scheme is to encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter the legal profession. The firm provides a grant on the following basis:
- the Award will be granted at the start of University, typically for a period of up to three years - paid in instalments at the start of each University term for living expenses or other expenses incurred at University.
- the Award will be granted on the basis the Candidate continues to follow a law or law-related degree course; if the Candidate ceases to follow that degree course, the Award will cease.
In return for the Award, the successful candidates agree to:
- study and complete a law or law-related degree at a recognised UK university.
- participate in the firm’s mentoring scheme and attend work experience at the end of the second year of attendance at University.
A mentoring system with our newly qualified solicitors is also established to give support and career guidance to the successful Candidates during their studies.
We are delighted that our first two successful candidates who were offered the Bursary in 2009 are due to graduate this year.
We now have eight students in total in the scheme and will shortly be reviewing applications for 2012.
"The Bird & Bird Bursary Programme has been one of the most beneficial experiences I have had the opportunity to participate in. The financial support that I received has contributed to the success that I have attained so far over the course of my degree as I have not had to divide my time between my studies and a part-time job. I am positive that the vital skills that I gained during my two week work experience will put me in good stead for when I eventually join the legal profession."
Sade Olaniyi, Sheffield University
Recipient of Bird & Bird Bursary Award 2009
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The Social Mobility Foundation
The Social Mobility Foundation works with gifted young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to ensure their potential is realised. Their students are high achievers who are predicted to achieve good A-Level results. They possess raw, natural talent, but what they don’t have is social capital.
For a number of years now we have worked with the Social Mobility Foundation and provided work experience opportunities every summer.
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On 27 and 28 June 2012, the London office hosted a new programme with Visionpath Education called 'Discover'. Discover is a social mobility and talent development programme for the legal sector, opening up the sector to a more diverse talent pipeline by engaging young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the variety of career opportunities available in a law firm.
Discover highlighted the role of partners, fee-earners and business services staff in delivering high-quality services for clients.
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We are a member of PRIME, the work experience commitment from the legal profession.
PRIME was established through the collective view that an industry standard was required to ensure fair access to quality work experience for school-age students across the UK.
By signing up to PRIME, we are committed to provide work experience placements for students from less advantaged backgrounds to find out how the legal profession works - not just the role of lawyers, but information and insights into other functions like Finance, IT, Human Resources, Marketing and Business Development - showing just how many different career paths are available. The initiative will be evaluated on an annual basis to ensure all the firms signed up are achieving what the set out to.
More details can be found on the PRIME website
The following case study shows how we are meeting the PRIME commitment in partnership with one of our clients, Yahoo!:
Inspired by our long-term commitment to promoting social mobility through greater diversity in the legal profession, the Pioneer Programme at international law firm Bird & Bird meets the PRIME commitment and is specifically aimed at building relationships with students from underprivileged backgrounds. It is designed to give students from age 14 onwards a greater awareness and understanding of careers available within the legal profession and the wider business world, while helping them to develop key employability skills.
How better to do this than to show students first-hand how law firms interact with clients, particularly when one of those clients is multinational online giant Yahoo!? Having worked with Bird & Bird on another of the firm’s social mobility initiatives, the in-house legal team at Yahoo! are perfect partners for Pioneer, enhancing what a law firm are able to offer by giving our students access to an even greater variety of careers, knowledge and contacts within a dynamic internet corporation.
The programme will be delivered through three half-day workshops in Years 10 and 11 and one week’s work experience in Year 12. During their work experience Yahoo! will host the students for an afternoon, introducing them to the legal team and other business units, including editorial and sales. The students will run a case study on a deal involving different business units and legal issues. They will then be split into teams to complete a challenge with a mentor from the Yahoo! legal team. Yahoo! will continue to be involved beyond this through the Pioneer alumni programme which will provide annual events and ongoing mentoring enabling students to keep in touch with the firm and their peers.
Yahoo!’s Senior Legal Director, Manu Kanwar commented: “We’ve been fans of the PRIME initiative since we read about it in the legal press and reached out to explore how Yahoo! Legal and the wider in-house community generally could get involved. It’s a great scheme, holding its signatories to very high standards and delivering real value to the students involved. We were very encouraged to know that Bird & Bird, our main UK law firm, had signed up and were keen to explore how we could work with them. Their Pioneer programme is great, going beyond PRIME requirements it provides a rounded and stimulating experience that builds, along with real relationships, over several years. We are really excited to be involved, giving a taste of in-house and business life.”
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Launched in September 2012, our Pioneer Programme is specifically aimed at building relationships with students from underprivileged backgrounds from age 14 onwards. We will support students through half-day workshops, a week’s work experience, ongoing mentoring and an alumni programme.
The Pioneer Programme at Bird & Bird aims to:
- provide insight, inspiration and information about careers in the legal profession and wider business world, as well as a chance to learn about and develop the key skills that employers are looking for
- provide targeted support to children over a 4 year period from Year 10 (age 14/15) to Year 13 (age 17/18) including one weeks’ work experience
- identify students who would otherwise not have access to such opportunities,
- properly prepare students for the decisions they will have to make as they decide what career path to embark on, including the relevance of university education
- provide a framework for continued support during and after the 4 year period (Mentoring programme and Pioneer Alumni).
In October 2012, we hosted our first of three half-day workshops for ten Year 10 students at our London office where they attended networking training and we’ll be welcoming them back in February 2013 for the second workshop.
Towards the end of 2012, we will also host eight Year 12 students for a week’s work experience, where they’ll get the chance to work in various departments, exposing them to the range careers available within the legal sector.
The Pioneer Programme evolved from our Bursary, launched in 2009 which aims to encourage greater diversity in the legal profession.
Click here to read about the first Pioneer programme which took place in autumn 2012.
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Other initiatives and memberships
The Law Society’s Diversity & Inclusion Charter
Bird & Bird are founding signatories of the Law Society Diversity & Inclusion Charter
. This is the flagship diversity initiative of the legal profession. It is an instantly recognisable public statement of commitment by its signatories and a framework for positive action across all strands of diversity.
Purchasers of legal services are invited to support and promote supplier diversity through adoption of the Protocol on the Procurement of Legal Services.
Initiated by the Society of Asian Lawyers and BT and led by the Law Society, this is a developing initiative through which its signatories will work together to develop, share and adopt best practice.
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We are members of Race for Opportunity
and working families
to assist us in advancing our diversity & inclusion strategy.
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