New Clyde & Co paralegal scheme boosts diversity in law

Programme offering alternative route to solicitor qualification attracts 1,000 applicants from mostly ethnic minority backgrounds

The programme’s first cohort Image courtesy of Clyde & Co

Clyde & Co received more than three times the number of applications it expected for its new talent development programme that offers an alternative route to solicitor qualification and is intended to break down barriers to a career in law. 

The firm had a target to attract 300 applicants for the ‘paralegal academy’ it launched in March but received almost 1,000 – with more than two-thirds coming from ethnic minority backgrounds. Clydes said the figure highlighted how the academy appealed to talent previously underserved in the market.

“While we knew our Paralegal Academy would be attractive to people looking for those first steps in a legal career, we hadn’t anticipated how high demand for places would be,” said Richard Stewart, Clydes’ chief operating officer for casualty. 

He added: “This is a genuinely new route to a legal qualification and goes a long way towards breaking down some of the barriers that have deterred some groups from entering the profession. Many of those in the group completed their A-levels in the early part of the pandemic and went on to start university during the lockdowns, so their success in securing a place is all credit to their tenacity and resilience.” 

The first cohort began in June and includes 25 new recruits, most of whom (22) are women. Almost half (45%) come from ethnic minority backgrounds, while the same percentage are state-school educated. Meantime seven do not have UK nationality and come from countries including South Africa, Bahrain and India. 

The academy is open to anyone with a UK Bachelors degree at 2:2 or above in any subject, or an equivalent qualification, and no previous legal experience is required. 

It sits within Clydes’ UK casualty practice – the largest in the country by some margin following the firm’s merger with BLM last year – and is intended to differ from the traditional training contract route in that it equips participants with the core skills to work as paralegals. It includes an intensive seven-day induction, on the job training, experience working alongside casualty experts and a career development framework. 

After 12 months in the academy top performers can apply for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), becoming a solicitor in as little as a year, depending on their current qualifications. 

Thirteen of the academy’s new recruits are now working in full-time fee earning roles in Manchester – Clydes’ second largest office globally – with the rest spread across its London headquarters and other regional UK offices. 

One participant, Deena Husain, said the initiative allowed her to build a solid foundation of legal skills and opened the possibility of new qualification routes. She praised the dedicated induction programme as “very interactive”, while another participant, Cameron Moore, said the overall training was “excellent”. 

Clydes said it expects to take on up to 100 graduates for its casualty practice each year, with recruitment for the academy’s second cohort closing later this week.  

The announcement follows Slaughter & May recently becoming the first major law firm to set social mobility targets, which has attracted considerable market comment.  

Other City law firms including Allen & Overy and Osborne Clarke are participating in City Century, a new initiative led by the City of London Law Society that aims to significantly increase the number of solicitor apprentices from diverse backgrounds.   

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