Young people keen to become the lawyers of tomorrow gathered in London on Saturday (July 10) to celebrate completing the innovative two-year Pathways to Law programme, designed to widen access to the legal profession.
A level students from all over the country attended a graduation ceremony at The Law Society at which they were congratulated for their achievement by The College of Law’s Chair of the Academic Board, Richard de Friend, watched by their proud parents and carers.
Pathways to Law students gather at The Law Society before the graduation ceremony on Saturday (July 10) (Photo by Thomas Webber) The students were the second cohort of Pathways to Law participants to graduate since the £1.5M scheme was established in September 2007 by The College of Law and The Sutton Trust, a charity which aims to promote social mobility through education.
Pathways’ goal is to provide opportunities to students from state schools in England who are interested in a career in law and will be the first generation of their family to attend university. It targets students from under-represented backgrounds with high GCSE grades.
Since its inception nearly 800 students have been accepted onto the scheme, which runs throughout their A-level years (Years 12 and 13). They attend lectures, seminars and advice and guidance sessions held by the five partner universities, Leeds, LSE, Manchester, Southampton and Warwick, as well as at regional centres of The College of Law.
The students also each have a three- to five-day placement in a law firm, giving them valuable insights and contacts with the legal profession that they may otherwise not have had, they attend a three-day national conference at the University of Warwick at the end of their first year and are assigned a current university law student as a mentor.
The success of the scheme has led to two more universities, the University of Bristol and UCL, joining the existing five universities to deliver the programme from September, which will raise the number of places available per year from 275 to 375.
Pathways to Law is also supported by The Law Society and eight leading law firms, who make substantial financial contributions each year to enable the programme to develop further. The firms also provide a large proportion of the student placements and are: Allen & Overy; Clifford Chance; DLA Piper; Eversheds; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Linklaters; Lovells and Simmons & Simmons.
Richard de Friend of The College of Law, said: “Those graduating have completed Pathways at the same time as meeting the heavy academic demands of their final school years, planning their futures, applying for university places and, in many cases, undertaking community or sporting activities and part-time weekend jobs.
As a result, they can now be very confident that they have the intellectual calibre, enterprise, motivation and resilience which they need to meet all the challenges they’ll face in higher education, the legal professions or in any other field in which they choose to make their careers.”
Pathways to Law is now recruiting students for Cohort Four, which begins in September 2010. Anyone wanting to find out how to apply should visit www.pathwaystolaw.org
Matthew Mills One of this year’s Pathways graduates, Matthew Mills, aged 17 from Winchester, applied to the scheme as he was considering doing a law degree and thought that the programme would give him valuable experience in a subject of which he had no real prior knowledge.
"I think Pathways to Law is a fantastic and comprehensive introduction to Law covering all areas of Law and the legal profession, including academic study, work experience and general university advice,"" he said. "The visit to the Inner Temple was my best bit because, prior to the visit, I had no real idea of what being a barrister entailed and certainly hadn’t ever seen an Inn of Court. This trip provided me with a fantastic insight into a very interesting and demanding profession, and the workshops put on by the Inn were thoroughly enjoyable.”
Matthew’s mother is a part-time classroom assistant and his father is in the Merchant Navy and he is the first of his family to go to university. He is now looking forward to talking up his place at the University of Oxford in the autumn to study Law (Jurisprudence) and hopes to become either a solicitor or a barrister.
Catherine Olley Catherine Olley, whose father is an electrician and mother a learning support assistant, is also the first of her family to go university and has a place at the University of the West of England in Bristol to study geography. The 18-year-old from Andover in Hampshire then plans to convert to law at The College of Law’s Guildford centre before training to become a solicitor.
She said: “I have always had an interest in Law and decided to study it at college. When I was offered a place on Pathways to Law it looked really interesting and I hoped that it would enable me to see into the world of Law and whether it was right for me.
"The scheme has been an absolutely amazing opportunity and I am so glad to have been part of it. The experiences have been brilliant and the scheme has also helped me to decide which career in Law I wish to pursue and how to go about it.”
For Catherine the national conference at the University of Warwick was the best part of the Pathways programme.
“It was a really amazing opportunity to meet lots of young people in the same position as me who want to study Law,” she said.
Sarah-Louise FernandezAnother Pathways graduate, Sarah-Louise Fernandez, aged 18 from Hayes in Middlesex, says that she found undertaking work experience at city law firm Lovells a particularly valuable aspect of the programme as it enabled her to see the day-to-day workings of a major law firm and learn more about the lifestyle of a solicitor.
She said: “Many people criticise Law as a subject for being too ‘dry’, however Pathways to Law showed me that there is so much more to Law than that…Most importantly it opened my eyes to the real possibility of pursuing a career in Law and being successful in such a pursuit, regardless of gender or race.”
Full case studies for Matthew Mills, Catherine Olley and Sarah-Louise Fernandez are available on request.