The Sutton Trust works closely with a range of employers to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds with accessing job opportunities and overcoming any barriers they face as they progress through their education and into their chosen career.  

One of our newest corporate partners, Boult Wade Tennant, have written about why they wanted to work with us, and shared their ambitions for creating a more diverse and inclusive IP sector, connecting to Careers in Ideas Week 2020. If you’re interested in finding out more about how your own company might be able to partner with the Sutton Trust to champion social mobility, please contact our Head of Donor Relations, Laura Solomons ([email protected])

I grew up in South Yorkshire and attended a comprehensive school.  When I said I wanted to apply to Cambridge even my teachers asked “do you really want to go there?”. I am so glad I had the support of my family, without which I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I also feel lucky to have found the job I do now; a visit to the careers service uncovered a small green pamphlet about patent attorneys and piqued my curiosity.

No university should be out of reach of an able pupil, regardless of background. I also believe that the U.K. patent profession should be recruiting the best and brightest graduates, based on their talent not their family background. The UK IP profession has, for many decades, had a reputation for being overwhelmingly white, male and middle class. My firm, Boult Wade Tennant, has been at the forefront of addressing the gender imbalance; we were one of the first, if not the first, UK firms to have a female partner, and women have also held the roles of both managing and senior partner. However, we must do much more to improve diversity.  Our clients also want to improve diversity in their legal representation: indeed, they are now beginning to demand this.

We have already taken steps in this respect; we have a very active Diversity and Inclusivity group within the firm.  We have signed up to the IP Inclusive Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Charter and one of my partners, Susi Fish, is actively involved at committee level with IP inclusive. However, much more can and should be done to improve social mobility. That is where our partnership with the Sutton Trust comes in. The Sutton Trust works with students who are yet to determine their choices in terms of university course and profession. That is the optimal time for us to engage with these young people. Based on our interaction to date we are confident that, together, we can help to break down barriers and inspire people from all backgrounds to join the IP profession.  Of course this benefits us, but it also benefits our clients; both of us want to work with the best people, no matter where they come from.  As our Managing Partner Alex Frost puts it:

“For me, Boult Wade Tennant’s most important asset is our people. Recruitment and promotion should be based entirely on merit, not background or contacts. I grew up in an economically deprived part of the UK. The easy route would have been to keep my head down and settle for a limited set of goals in life. At a critical point in my teenage years, I had mentors who encouraged me to aim high. Looking back, I know how lucky I was that I found those mentors. I strongly feel that supporting young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds is good for the long term future of the firm, and that is why I am so pleased that we are able to work closely with the Sutton Trust, to help deliver opportunities and initiatives to them”.

We want to challenge the perception that law is elitist, and help generate interest in the profession from a wider community. Collectively we are very excited about our partnership with the Sutton Trust. We are the first patent and trade mark firm to form such a partnership. It is our goal to improve awareness of, and access to, the wonderful profession in which we work.

We have pledged to support those who face challenges entering and succeeding in the IP profession because of their socioeconomic or ethnic backgrounds. We are all committed to fulfilling this promise over the coming months and years.

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