A pioneering programme to enable 400 young people a year – 1200 in total – from non-professional homes to become the next generation of lawyers is being extended thanks to a £1.2m grant to the Sutton Trust by the Legal Education Foundation.

The Pathways to Law programme will see the Foundation’s grant matched by a further £1.2m from leading law firms and universities to provide total funding of £2.4m to support the programme in its next phase.

Pathways to Law was set up in 2006 by the Sutton Trust and the College of Law following research by the Trust which showed that the top echelons of the legal profession were drawn from a narrow range of social backgrounds.

2000 students have already benefitted from the programme, which is the largest access initiative of its type. The programme is targeted at 17 and 18 year-olds in Years 12 and 13 whose parents have not been to university, or who have been eligible for free school meals.  Preference is given to those in lower performing schools and poorer areas. Applicants should have gained at least 5As at GCSE.

Pathways to Law is currently run through seven universities – Leeds, Manchester, University College London, the London School of Economics, Southampton, Warwick and Bristol – with support from over 30 law firms. Firms backing the programme include Allen and Overy, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters and Mayer Brown.

It is hoped other firms and universities will join the programme now. Recruitment for the next phase will begin in the Autumn.

Students who participate complete a two year programme which includes:

  • Sessions at their host university with help applying, CV and interview techniques, subject-specific revision sessions and legal workshops
  • A residential conference
  • E-mentoring from undergraduate law students
  • Work experience in the legal sector
  • A trip to the Inner Temple and Royal Courts of Justice
  • A national graduation ceremony in London
  •  Many also receive further help and access to internships during their university course.

95% of those taking part in recent years have been first generation students whose parents had not been to university. The programme is open to low and middle income state school students, but 66% are from low performing schools and 29% live in the poorest postcodes. 85% of participants achieved BBB+ or better in their A levels.  Half of the Pathways students gain places at leading universities.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today: “I’m delighted that Pathways to Law has secured the funding to help a further 1200 students over the coming years, and am very grateful to the Legal Education Foundation, along with our corporate and university supporters, for backing this important initiative. The programme is really opening-up opportunities for young people from non-professional families to become the next generation of lawyers.”

Guy Beringer, chairman of the Legal Education Foundation, said today: “The Foundation is very pleased to continue its support for this important scheme. We are encouraged by the growing participation of universities and law firms and this is evidence that the scheme benefits them as well as the many participating students.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 120 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to Access to the Professions.
  2. The Legal Education Foundation was set up to promote the advancement of legal education and the study of law. It was created in 2012 with the monies received from the sale of the College of Law.  For more information see www.thelef.org
  3. Pathways to Law is also supported by the Law Society and seven major law firms: Allen and Overy, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters and Mayer Brown. A further thirty firms offer work placements to Pathways students, across the country. For more information on Pathways to Law and the tender process please visit www.suttontrust.com.

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