We have published advice on recruitment practices to promote social mobility in the solicitors’ profession. The advice was developed in response to demand from solicitors for more information on how to implement recruitment practices that promote fair and equal access to the profession for trainees from all backgrounds.
The guidance focuses on three areas where barriers may arise in recruitment processes faced by aspiring solicitors from disadvantaged social backgrounds:
- Increasing awareness of unconscious bias
Unconscious bias is the tendency for people to be more comfortable with those who are similar to them and less comfortable with people perceived as being different. It is often a natural tendency to recruit or collaborate in our own image, rather than looking more widely for talent.
- Implementing a blind recruitment process to recruit trainee solicitors
Withholding information about the background of job applicants from those shortlisting for a role or from interviewing panels is known as blind recruitment. The type of information withheld might include university name or the type of school the candidate attended - anything that might indicate social background. This process is intended to eliminate any bias in favour of or against candidates from particular backgrounds.
- Contextualising the achievements of applicants in light of their social background
Contextual recruitment provides interviewers with the opportunity to assess a candidate’s achievements in the context of their social and educational background. For instance, it shows how a person’s grades compare with the average for the educational establishments they attended. This can help identify people who are extremely motivated to become solicitors, but who otherwise might be overlooked. Contextual recruitment may also flag those applicants who are the first in their families to attend higher education, those who received free school meals and those spent time in care. Some of the key qualities recruiters are looking for - resilience, stamina, adaptability - do not always come across in application forms because these tell recruiters relatively little regarding applicants’ personal circumstances.