Linklaters concludes Schools Challenge as first step in new social mobility approach

As part of a new social mobility recruitment initiative, Linklaters launched the Making Links Schools Challenge, aimed at helping young people improve their commercial awareness and presentation skills.

Making Links, launched in December 2018, brings together the range of programmes Linklaters has in place globally that focus on recruiting talented people from socio-economically less advantaged backgrounds.

The Schools Challenge, which concluded on Monday 29 April, was designed to give UK state-school students currently completing A-Levels (or equivalent) the opportunity to develop skills they need to become the commercial lawyers of the future, whilst also winning prizes for their school and themselves.

Students were asked to answer a question around Innovation, a key topic for the firm, via a mini essay or short PowerPoint presentation. 20 students from 20 schools all over the UK were selected to take part in a Grand Final event on where they presented their ideas to a panel from the firm. Panellists included David Martin, Global Diversity & Inclusion Partner, Kate Richardson-Moore, Global Head of Talent & Engagement, and Shilpa Bhandarkar, Head of Innovation & Efficiency.

Prizes for both individuals and schools included online vouchers to support study and cash prizes intended to widen the school's engagement with business or promoting self-directed study. 

An overall winner was selected from the Finalists and that was Naima Ali from Portsmouth College who wrote a submission focused on Amazon’s business model. Other themes covered in submissions were social media, plastics, Brexit and blockchain.

As part of the Grand Final students had tours of the office, and networking sessions with lawyers and other professionals at the firm. In addition, they took part in workshops focused on innovation, personal brand development and application, and interview technique from experts at the firm. 
The Schools Challenge also sought to connect Linklaters with teachers on the day. A special schedule of sessions aimed to highlight to teachers more about who we are and what we do, how firms like ours engage young people in careers and how we might work together more effectively to inform young people of their options. 

David Martin, Global Diversity & Inclusion Partner, said: “State school applicants are heavily underrepresented in the legal profession, with applications dominated by independent schools. We want to actively address this imbalance by engaging with local and regional state schools and launching new initiatives under Making Links to help young people from less privileged backgrounds access mentoring and training opportunities and feel empowered to make informed decisions about their futures. I, myself, came from a state school in Wales so I understand the challenges of pursuing such opportunities. I hope that Making Links will encourage more state school students to consider a rewarding career in the legal profession, and firms like Linklaters.

André Flemmings, Global & Diversity Recruitment Manager, said: “Everything Linklaters does starts with our clients and so you could argue that the law itself is in some ways secondary to first understanding their world: the commercial world. The ability to apply the law to a world changed continually by innovation and disruption requires creativity, energy, resilience and a large degree of empathy.

“Making Links Schools Challenge is our attempt to highlight to young people that the commercial world is not so removed from the world they inhabit, and that the creativity and real interest they have in the world around them that their submissions show are exactly building blocks they would need to be the successful commercial lawyers of the future.”

On engaging schools and teachers, André continues: “We recognise the importance of engaging with teachers to really get to grips with how young people perceive a career in law and look forward to expanding our understanding and interaction with schools as part of our new recruitment initiative.” 

Following a successful pilot of the competition, the firm will run this again next year in the UK.