Claire Maton, Programmes Manager, meets some inspiring and well-informed students at our recent annual Pathways to Law conference

250 sixth formers from across England gathered at the University of Warwick in July for the Pathways to Law annual conference, where they had the chance develop skills, knowledge and experience that will help them to make an informed decision about their future legal career.

The Pathways to Law programme aims to increase access to the legal profession for talented students from low and middle income backgrounds. Our Leading People report finds that as many as 74% of the judiciary and 71% of barristers are educated at private schools.

An essential part of this programme is the national conference where  Year 12 students from 12 programmes across the country come together as part of a journey of development, seeing them increasing in confidence and building friendships, as well as improving knowledge and understanding of the law.

I was completely inspired by the students I met. We continually hear that we live in uncertain times, with challenging years ahead of us. One often wonders what the world might look like in 10, 20, 50 years’ time. This conference instilled within me hope for the future.

The students were so well-informed and critical about current affairs, able to differentiate between fact and fake news. They were able to develop opinions based on knowledge and research, though not unwilling to hear and consider other points of view. This showed a level of maturity far beyond their years and an attitude that will no doubt be essential throughout their life and professional legal careers.

Throughout the conference, the students also showed sensitivity around cultural differences and beliefs but were unafraid to have difficult conversations around very controversial topics. This was most clearly illustrated in the debating workshop which focused on current topical issues such as the rights of EU citizens based in the UK post Brexit and where responsibilities lie when it comes to fake news and information manipulation. This activity also illustrated great collaboration and team work, which appeared to be second nature for them.

Finally, I was struck by the students’ ambition and drive. A poignant moment was when a few of them tried on the barrister’s wig and gown. It looked like a natural fit for them. They spoke of looking forward to having their own wig and gown when they are welcomed to the Bar in years to come.

With these students as the leaders of tomorrow I look forward to a bright future and feel privileged to have worked with them.

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