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Supporting Social Mobility Day 2023

Posted: 15/06/2023

Penningtons Manches Cooper is once again supporting Social Mobility Awareness Day, Rebecca Carlyon, the sponsoring partner of our socioeconomic committee says:

“We are proud to continue to support Social Mobility Day, helping to increase awareness of this vitally important aspect of equity within the workplace. Over the past year, since the foundation of Social Mobility Awareness Day, Penningtons Manches Cooper has continued to demonstrate its commitment to social mobility, with a focus on trying to increase the diverse range of people that the firm attracts and retains from different socioeconomic backgrounds. This includes but is not limited to; low-income households, those who have experienced poor access to education, and first generation university attendees. Our mission is to engage with individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds through firm led initiatives such as mentoring and work experience, as well as partnering with other organisations, with the aim of improving access to the legal profession for these individuals and increasing their representation within the firm.”

Continuing to drive socioeconomic change at Penningtons Manches Cooper

Our learning and development team continue to drive forward initiatives to help realise our vision for socioeconomic change. Since the last Social Mobility Day, a series of best practice interview training modules has been rolled out to mitigate the unconscious biases around socioeconomic background that can arise in selection, interview and hiring decisions. We also invited The Bridge Group, a non-profit consultancy that uses research to promote social equality, to host a learning session for colleagues at all levels. This session encouraged lively discussion about what the firm already does, and what more we can do.  

We continue to:

  • run CV application clinics for vacation scheme and training contract applicants from low socioeconomic backgrounds
    • encourage the use of our DE&I Ambassadors programme:
      our DE&I ambassadors are visible and contactable through our careers website; those interested in pursuing a career with us can contact employees with similar backgrounds to find out more about working here
    • our DE&I ambassadors are visible and contactable internally, encouraging those already at the firm to reach out to colleagues with shared experiences or backgrounds for advice and support in a safe space, and to join our active and well attended socioeconomic committee
  • utilise Rare Recruitment’s contextual recruitment system to help identify applicants who are outperformers once their backgrounds are appropriately factored in. Rare Recruitment confirms that 61% more disadvantaged candidates are hired when organisations adopt this recruitment system
  • partner with organisations like PRIME and Social Mobility Business Partnership to support our social mobility inclusion efforts and widen access to the profession
  • host an A-level work experience programme, with a focus and commitment to support those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, in partnership with PRIME
  • collect socioeconomic background diversity data about employees through our HR system
  • support children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds by volunteering on an annual basis with INSPIRE’s reading scheme

In addition, many members of the socioeconomic committee, and the wider firm, are mentors to those from more disadvantaged backgrounds – either internally, through their schools or universities, or other external organisations.

Further, we’re very proud to share that the Penningtons Manches Cooper Foundation has launched a tuition fee scholarship to support students from low socioeconomic backgrounds embarking on a law degree, with the inaugural recipients starting their courses this academic year

Experiences from some of our socioeconomic committee members

Lyndsey Banthorpe, Associate – Clinical Negligence  

I strongly believe that your future is based on the grit and determination you put into pursuing your goals, not your socio-economic status or personal network. 

The state school that I attended was placed in special measures by Ofsted for the majority of my secondary school education. It classed the school as “failing”  and was highly critical of the its performance. Only 28% of my peer group left school with five or more GCSE grades A*-C; the lowest in the entire county.
The school was subsequently closed.

There was a lot of anti-social behaviour at the school and in the surrounding area, and falling into the ‘wrong crowd’ was almost an inevitability. Succeeding to become a lawyer seemed like an unattainable prospect to me. When I expressed my career aspirations to one particular teacher I was ridiculed and told that it would never happen. To be honest, I think this became one of my biggest motivations – to prove him wrong and prove to myself that I could make it happen.

I knew that if I wanted to pursue a career in law, falling into the wrong crowd was not an option. I kept my head down as best I could and worked hard to focus on my studies. I was very fortunate to have a supportive and nurturing family to encourage me to pursue my career aspirations. 

I managed to secure a place at a Russell Group university and then went on to work full-time as a paralegal at a global law firm whilst I self-funded the Legal Practice Course, studying part-time at weekends over two years.

I am now six years qualified working at an international law firm in a practice area I love. 

I am proud to work at a firm that supports diversity in socio-economic backgrounds. I want to be a voice of encouragement to those that feel their background is holding them back and I am proud of the work Penningtons Manches Cooper continues to do to inspire the next generation to achieve their true potential, regardless of socio-economic status.

Sheelpa Maroo, Knowledge Paralegal – Non-contentious Business Services Division – Best Practice

I joined the socioeconomic committee at Penningtons Manches Cooper to put myself in a position where I can positively influence diversity and inclusion within the firm and industry as a whole. Discussion around social mobility is important because statistics still show a lack of representation of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in law firms. 

I understand first hand the barriers presented to those from low income backgrounds in pursuing competitive careers in the legal profession, and the challenges I have encountered have motivated me to help others. Going to a top Russell Group university made me even more aware of the personal advantages that I did not have in following certain career paths, for example I did not have any close professional connections. 

I grew up in one of the most deprived boroughs in London and was the first person in my family to graduate from university. Although I am grateful for the work ethic and resilience that I have developed as a result of this, there is an onus on law firms to use their resources to improve social mobility. If it wasn't for the social mobility schemes I was a part of throughout my studies and the support from networks I built over the years, a career path that was already difficult to enter would have seemed impossible. 
I am proud to work at a firm that has placed improving social mobility high up on the agenda and look forward to seeing how further change is implemented. 

Richard Raban-Williams, Associate – Commercial Dispute Resolution

Joining Penningtons Manches Cooper’s socioeconomic committee was important to me as I believe that a career in law should be a realistic aim for anyone, regardless of their background. Further, it is my view that individuals who come from a low socioeconomic environment often possess unique skills and benefit from experiences which place them in good stead for legal employment. As such, I feel that law firms are likely to gain from a diverse workforce which consists of employees coming from a range of backgrounds. This makes it all the more frustrating that those with less privileged roots face significant difficulties in accessing employment as lawyers (and indeed other professionals).

I was extremely fortunate in terms of my own background, and this is something that I do not take for granted. What I did find difficult at times was moving away from my rural home and family in the   northeast of England to big cities (Manchester and then London) on my path to qualification as a solicitor. Having a limited personal and professional network in these places meant that I frequently had to rely on the support of my peers and superiors at work. I have been lucky enough throughout my career to work alongside a long list of unbelievably kind and supportive individuals in what can be due to its very nature a demanding sector. It is for this reason that I try my hardest to offer support to junior colleagues I work with and why taking part in initiatives such as the firm’s Empower programme is important to me.

I am pleased to work at a firm which recognises and values social mobility and to be a member of a committee dedicated to improving the opportunities of those less fortunate than myself.      

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