As a global top 10 law practice, Eversheds Sutherland provides legal advice and solutions to an international client base which includes some of the world’s largest multinationals. Eversheds Sutherland partners with the Sutton Trust to support our Pathways to Law programme, a two-year programme which offers young people the opportunity to explore what studying law and entering the legal profession might be like. As submissions open for the 2023 Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index, the team shared with us what they have achieved through their partnership with the Sutton Trust and why tracking their internal progress on social mobility is important to them. 

How long have you been working with the Sutton Trust and what motivated you to enter the partnership? 

At Eversheds Sutherland we are committed to supporting social mobility and education. We offer support to young people from less advantaged backgrounds to help them broaden their horizons and access opportunities, with a focus on educating on careers in the legal profession.  

Our socio-economic inclusion goals are: 

  • Use our social mobility data to set future targets and track our progress 
  • Weave our social mobility vision through all our diversity and inclusion activity, strands and conversations, and ensure practices that recognise and support social challenges  
  • Open up opportunities for those from different socio-economic backgrounds in our hiring and promotion processes

We have a significant number of strong partnerships with state-funded schools and further education establishments, and organisations who share our purpose to diversify the legal sector and to provide access by opening up opportunities for those from underrepresented backgrounds.  

One of our core partners is the Sutton Trust. We have supported the Trust’s Pathways to Law programme for several years. The Pathways to Law programme provides a pipeline of students for our Unlocked work experience programme in the UK. Eversheds Sutherland Unlocked targets sixth form students from less advantaged backgrounds, who are the first of their family to go to university, are studying at state schools and have a genuine enthusiasm for the legal profession. Unlocked was launched in 2009 following a successful 2008 pilot and to date has supported over 1,400 students.  

What has your partnership with the Trust involved? 

We work with the Sutton Trust to offer the students an in-depth insight into what it is like to work for an international law firm. A large part of the programme encourages students to articulate what they hope to achieve, along with looking at the skills they might need to develop and challenges they may have to overcome to achieve their goals. It encourages them to stretch themselves and achieve their full potential, by being able to identify their strengths and passions. The students hear from barristers, in-house counsel and lawyers who have themselves come through a non-traditional route and are willing to share their own career paths and experiences. The programme culminates with individual or group presentations by the students to an audience of trainees, solicitors and partners. 

The feedback from participants has been positive: 

– “The Unlocked programme was my first step into law. Prior to this, I had not yet gained the opportunity to study the subject itself, however, I have since gathered an informative insight into the area and all its factors. By engaging in the programme, it emphasised my interest and pushed me to strive. I am looking forward to the path it will lead me down and cannot thank the firm enough.” 

– “I have gained a number of invaluable skills that are applicable to both the professional and business environment.”

Some clear skills I retained were: 

– “A stronger level of communication that is formal and required.” 

– “A better understanding of what is expected of a law working environment.” 

– “Application of law to situations, a level of adaptability.” 

Participants in the Unlocked programme are invited to apply for the Scott Wagland and Gemma Curtis bursary, launched in 2013 in remembrance of two of our colleagues. The bursary complements Unlocked and all participants are encouraged to submit an application. The bursary covers the tuition fees in full for an undergraduate law degree. The bursary also provides the students with a Partner and an Associate mentor. The mentors support the bursary students throughout their degrees and provide them with a week of work experience. There is also the opportunity to secure vacation scheme placements with us.

One Scott Wagland and Gemma Curtis bursary recipient said: 

“The bursary awarded was life-changing and I’m forever grateful for such an opportunity. The bursary ensured that law was accessible without the barrier of financial burden. The support I have received from Eversheds Sutherland has been amazing, as they have supported me with each step of the way. Thank you to all the team at Eversheds Sutherland and the Unlocked programme.” 

We also sit on the Sutton Trust Pathways to Law Advisory Group which helps us learn more about the social mobility agenda, student research, programme developments and what other legal peers are doing in this space. It gives us the opportunity to support the Trust with the strategic direction of the programme, offer guidance on how the programme could be improved and discuss challenges in the legal sector and how these might impact the programme and the students. 

Why do you think it is important that employers enter the Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index? 

We are very pleased to have been recognised for our work on social mobility, ranking as a top 70 employer in the Social Mobility Employers Index 2022. We have participated in the Index for a number of years and have demonstrated improvement year on year. The Index is an excellent benchmarking tool which allows us to take a deep dive into what we are doing to address social mobility. We participate in the Index so that we have the opportunity to effect change and convert the valuable feedback we receive into tangible action, using best practice examples for guidance.  

It is important for employers to enter the Index as it is the most in-depth benchmark on social mobility and focuses on social mobility through different lenses such as work with young people; routes into the employer; attraction; recruitment and selection; data collection; progression, culture and experienced hire; and advocacy. Whether an organisation is just kicking off their social mobility programme, or whether they have had one in place for some time, the Index is a great tool to help bridge gaps and maintain accountability when monitoring performance and inclusivity in the longer term.  

Are you involved in any other social mobility initiatives? 

Being an international firm, we also have a focus on social mobility and a number of bursary programmes in different jurisdictions, including the Middle East and Hong Kong. 

Our social mobility partnerships include:  

  • Social Welfare Solicitors’ Qualification Fund 
  • Levelling Up Law 
  • Social Mobility Foundation 
  • Skillsbuilder  
  • Future First  
  • Hebe Foundation 
  • PRIME 
  • City Solicitors Horizons 
  • SEO London (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity) 

We believe that encouraging social mobility is a shared responsibility. Working with partners like the Sutton Trust, and collaborating across and within sectors, can go a long way to ensuring those from lower socio-economic backgrounds have the same opportunities as their peers. 

The 2023 Employer Index is now open for submissions – visit the Social Mobility Foundation’s website for more information on submitting to the Index. The Sutton Trust can support partners who wish to submit to the Index in filling out the student outreach section of your submission. If you would like support on filling out this section, please email [email protected] 

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