Thousands of aspiring lawyers from non-privileged homes will benefit from a £1m expansion of the Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Law programme, a pioneering initiative designed to widen access to the legal profession, it was announced today. For the first time, the programme, which is funded by the Legal Education Foundation, nine leading law firms and the partner universities, will provide support for GCSE students in years 10 and 11, as well as throughout sixth form.

Today’s announcement comes after research by the Sutton Trust found that three-quarters of top judges and 71% of top QCs were privately educated – proportions that have decreased only slightly since the 1980s. At the same time, YouGov polling of the legal industry commissioned by the Trust and PRIME revealed the benefits of addressing the problem are widely accepted. A majority (52%) of senior figures in the legal industry said that improving social mobility in the legal profession would be beneficial to their firm.

Pathways to Law, targeted at academically able pupils from non-privileged homes, will be delivered by 12 partner universities across the country, including four new universities who have joined the programme this year:  University of Roehampton, Queen Mary University of London, University of Leicester, and University of Liverpool.

The 1,800 students will receive a four year programme of support including:

  • Sessions at their host university with help applying for training contracts, 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.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today:

“Our research has shown that there is still a big social mobility issue within the legal sector. Greater access to a wider pool of diverse talent will deliver real benefits for employers and employees alike. This is why Pathways to Law is so important. I’m delighted that our partnership with The Legal Education Foundation will enable us to expand the programme and support young people from a younger age and over four years.”

Matthew Smerdon, Chief Executive of the Legal Education Foundation, said today:

“By reaching students at an earlier stage, we hope to encourage more bright young people from poorer homes that a career in law is open to them. As a society, we need to be investing in our next generation in a way that promotes equality and opportunity and it is in all our interests if the composition of the legal profession reflects the diversity of the people and organisations that it serves.”

Recruitment for Year 10 and Year 12 pupils will begin in August 2016. Pathways to Law will be run by the twelve partner universities: University of Bristol, University of Exeter, University of Leeds, University of Leicester, University of Liverpool, The London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Manchester, University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, University of Oxford,  Queen Mary University of London, University of Roehampton, and University of Warwick.

For further information or to arrange an interview, including with students who have been successful on the programme, please contact: Hilary Cornwell or Conor Ryan on 0207 802 1660.


  1. The Sutton Trustis a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 170 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. The Sutton Trust runs summer schools with St Andrews and Edinburgh universities with places for 250 students each year.
  2. Pathways to Law is funded by the Legal Education Foundation, The Law Society and nine law firms. These are: Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Cooley, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters and Macfarlanes.
  3. 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.
  4. Pathways Plussupports non-privileged law students during their degree through e-monitoring, residential courses and help securing work experience.
  5. PRIMEis an alliance of 89 law firms and legal departments across the UK who have made a commitment to broaden access to the legal professions. PRIME firms offer work experience to young people from less privileged backgrounds who might otherwise not have the opportunity to access careers in the legal world. Since its establishment in September 2011 PRIME has provided high quality work experience to almost 4,000 young people, significantly exceeding the target of 2,500 by 2015.
  6. The Sutton Trust’s Leading People 2016 report maps the educational backgrounds of leading figures in ten areas: the military, medicine, politics, civil service, journalism, business, law, music, film and Nobel Prizes.

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