Addressing social mobility is country’s greatest need


At Herbert Smith Freehills, across our global network, we strive to address and resolve our clients’ complex business challenges.

Whether they are multinational corporations or innovative charities serving a community with urgent needs, we build relationships to deliver the best possible outcomes.

We believe that achieving positive results is about more than business success. Driving social purpose and helping individuals grow and develop can make a real difference.

That’s why we’ve designed programmes enabling our partners and employees to respond to a range of needs that exist in the communities and regions in which we do business.

In the UK, one of the greatest needs is to address social mobility. Yet tackling the issue does not sit solely with individual businesses.

Our belief is that success is best achieved by adhering to the twin values of connection and collaboration. To borrow a phrase, we’re all in this together.

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We are proud to work with various charities and clients to change young people’s lives through collaborative projects by ensuring they are aware of the range of careers on offer within the commercial world.

These partnerships bring our social mobility programme to life and present a great opportunity to share knowledge and best practice, and ensure the students we support know what qualities they need to succeed.

An example of this is the Herbert Smith Freehills’ Networked Scholarship Scheme; an innovative programme designed to equip students with a range of essential skills for business and a network of professionals to support their development.

The scheme recruits five A-level/BTEC students from comprehensive schools in London, targeting those who have limited access to corporate support and who would benefit from expanding their network.

It is not about creating lawyers; instead focusing on fostering skills that apply to all business environments.

Those on the programme benefit from mentoring, skills development – such as teamwork, communications and presentation – work experience, and a financial bursary to support them during their degree.

It’s hugely encouraging to note that 100% of the first two cohorts of Networked Scholars graduated from the programme with roles at professional services firms, investment banks, and marketing and technology firms.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of one of our key clients. Goldman Sachs plays a key role in the programme by dedicating time to boost scholars’ commercial awareness through workshops, providing  feedback on areas of their development and, more notably, giving a platform to improve their public speaking skills.

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It’s no small contribution either, and is based around a three-week internship at the end of which a pitch has to be delivered. This element of the scheme has been described as “life changing” and “a reminder of why [they] want to conquer the world of business”.

Another opportunity that has given us a great way to leverage our partnerships is our PRIME programme.

Many organisations focus their work experience opportunities in London, putting students living in the rest of the UK at a disadvantage. For this reason, we partner with the Social Mobility Foundation and one of our core clients, BP, to host our residential placement.

The programme has been specifically designed to support talented, hardworking, motivated and ambitious students living outside of the reach of these opportunities to come to London to gain valuable work experience and improve their soft skills.

We take the students to BP for a day visit, during which they have a tour of the labs, analyse an exciting legal case study, explore the world of ethics through a workshop, and have a speed networking session with a number of different members of BP’s legal team.

Collaborations such as this enhance students’ insights into the legal profession by showing how the energy leader operates, what careers are available, and how in-house legal teams work with law firms like ours.

We have found that by partnering together on social mobility schemes, we and our clients develop stronger relationships and support one another to achieve the objective of ensuring fair access to the world of business.