Stephenson Harwood has announced the launch of its new scholarship and solicitor apprenticeship programmes. Both will open for applications in October 2020, and will start in September 2021.
“Widening access to the legal profession is something about which I am particularly passionate,” said Eifion Morris, Chief Executive, Stephenson Harwood. “Of course it’s the right thing to do, and we all know that diversity – in all its forms – is so important in any successful business. But, for me, this one’s personal.
“I grew up in a rural village in West Wales, in a family where one grandfather had been a miner, and the other a farmer. The progression to higher education is something that was a natural expectation by most of my colleagues, however that is not true for everyone and wasn’t my experience growing up. I was one of ten grandchildren and the first and only one to go to university. Key to me making it to where I am today were the teachers in my local comprehensive school and their dedication to educating the few of us who remained at school beyond the age of 16. It was by no means a given that I would end up as a solicitor or leading an international law firm. I have been an ‘outsider’ for much of my professional life – whether in terms of my background, working in my second language, my sexuality or choosing a training contract at a mid-sized firm with a unique training system (Gouldens) over the traditional four seats at a magic circle firm – and I genuinely believe that this is a key part of what I bring to teams and now in leading the wider firm. We need more diversity in law, more people who may have thought that a career in law is not for ‘people like them’ and that’s what these programmes seek to support.”
The scholarships will provide students with £15,000 per year, to cover the costs of university fees and contribute to living expenses. Recipients will also be given a mentor from the firm, invited to insight days and employment workshops, provided with work experience and guaranteed a place at an assessment centre for a training contract. In recognition that there are both practical barriers – such as the sheer cost of university education – as well as those which are harder to identify – like not knowing anyone who can share their experiences of working in law. The Stephenson Harwood programme has been designed to address both elements.
The solicitor apprenticeship scheme provides an alternative route to a career in law. It’s open to students straight from school, and successful participants will qualify as solicitors after the six-year programme. They will have access to the same opportunities as Stephenson Harwood trainees – including spending time across practice groups, taking part in international and client secondments, and being supervised and supported by partners and associates throughout their time with the firm.
“We wanted to make sure that these programmes tackled access to law at the point at which the most meaningful impact can be made, and with those students who are most under-represented in the profession,” said Lisa Marks, Trainee Principal, Stephenson Harwood. “That’s why we’ve worked with MyKindaFuture, to support our efforts with the school outreach and ensure that we get applications from the type of candidates we want to attract. We’re really excited about the potential for both schemes, and to receiving applications from a range of talented, driven and passionate students.”