A work experience commitment developed in a partnership between the Sutton Trust and leading law firms is boosting the self-confidence of hundreds of low and middle income students and giving them the skills to pursue legal and other careers.

PRIME is a commitment by over 80 law firms to ensure fair and equal access to quality work experience in the legal profession, and a new evaluation published today by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) shows that 90% of students from low and middle income backgrounds said PRIME boosted their self-confidence.

Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation said: “Well-structured work experience is crucial for young people, but too often depends on knowing the right people and having professional connections. PRIME is leading the way in ensuring work placements in the legal sector are high quality and fairly recruited.

“It is making a huge difference to those from low and middle income families, who do not have professional contacts, by giving them crucial experience of work in law firms. The first year report is very encouraging, and shows just how valuable the placements have been to hundreds of young people, with many more set to benefit in this coming year.”

David Morley, Allen & Overy senior partner and chair of PRIME, said: “The hard work and commitment of signatories has meant that we have made tremendous progress since PRIME launched last year. We’re pleased that the NFER report reflects this but we still have work to do. Over 80 law firms are signed up across the UK but we’d like more to join us so we can continue to improve access to work experience for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

After what the NFER described as a “very promising” first year in which 751 work experience places were offered between January and August 2012 in 20 different law firms to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. PRIME, supported by the Sutton Trust, is being encouraged to increase the number of its placements which have helped students gain valuable insight into the legal profession. The target for the profession is to provide 2,500 places by 2015.

86% of participants accessed their first work experience in the legal profession through PRIME. They benefited from placements amounting to at least 30-35 hours and structured to develop students’ confidence, competencies and motivation, with training in key skills needed for a career in a law firm and in other professions.

As well as receiving information about the profession, students were rehearsed in giving presentations, writing reports and applications, networking and being interviewed. Most students did not think their experience could be improved and 96% said that they would recommend it to others.

NFER Research Manager Kelly Kettlewell commented: “NFER is delighted to have had the opportunity to evaluate this important initiative, which has been so well received by the young people involved. We are looking forward to continuing to monitor PRIME as it develops in future.”


  1. Supported by the Sutton Trust, PRIME is a commitment by over 80 law firms to ensure fair and equal access to quality work experience in the legal profession. More information can be found at www.primecommitment.org
  2. The 751 work experience placements in 2012 equate to 60% of the number of training contracts on offer from the firms who took part. (The law firms who signed up to PRIME had to provide a number of work placements that is less than 50% of the number of training contracts they offer each year.)
  3. For students to be eligible for a placement through PRIME they must be attending a state-funded secondary school/college, be in Years 9 to 13 and meet either of the following criteria: are or have been on free school meals or are of the first generation in their immediate family to attend university.
  4. The survey conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) was completed by 478 students.
  5. Sutton Trust research in 2005 examining the educational backgrounds of those in the legal profession showed that top legal jobs were largely occupied by those who had attended fee-paying independent schools: over two thirds of the barristers at the top chambers had been privately educated, as had three quarters of the judges and over half the partners of Magic Circle law firms.

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