City law firm launches online internship to boost social mobility

One of the key factors hindering people from entering the legal profession, especially from less privileged backgrounds, is the difficulty in gaining that all important work experience. In a bid to increase social mobility, ‘Magic Circle’ firm, Linklaters has launched a new digital platform enabling anyone to gain a valuable window into a day in the life of a working lawyer. We take a look at how this new virtual internship could present a valuable opportunity for many a would-be legal eagle.

In an ever increasingly competitive job market, the route to becoming a qualified commercial solicitor has remained a daunting challenge. Despite efforts to increase access to the legal services industry, it is fair to state that the profession remains a somewhat ‘closed’ institution especially when compared to other sectors. One of the main routes through to the hallowed training contract (or ‘Period of Recognised Training’) has been the vacation scheme. Such schemes or placements tend to be run by the larger corporate or commercial firms and provide a crucial insight into what life is like as a qualified solicitor.

Trouble is, like the training contract, they are furiously sought after and are immensely difficult to secure. This has the effect of turning many away from a career in law before they’ve even begun. It also deprives law firms of talented new recruits.

The legal profession has been trying to broaden the scope of its recruitment for some time, yet progress has been slow. Many commentators still criticise the intakes, particularly of the large prestigious practices, which arguably still team with candidates from the same universities, the same law schools and the same socioeconomic backgrounds.

However, last week international firm Linklaters took a significant step, which could sound something of a new departure for the way law firms go about their graduate recruitment. Working in partnership with Inside Sherpa, the global legal giant has devised a clever online internship designed to break down the barriers that may have dissuaded some candidates from gaining a foot in the door in the past.

The internship is the first of its kind among UK law firms and will give applicants the chance to get a feel for what happens behind the doors of one of the world’s leading legal companies. The advantages to candidates are clear: Firstly, the internship is open to students from “any university, background or degree”. The platform uses clever e-learning methods to enable the user to sample the kind of work undertaken by the lawyers within the firm and even interact with senior advisers.

Video instructions are sent to students from Partners. Students are then able to access resources which will enable them to complete these tasks, after which time their work can be submitted and then self-marked.

The opportunity to build legal skills whilst being afforded the chance to gain hands-on experience is a fantastic one and yet another example of how technology could revolutionise the legal sector. It is also hoped that such a platform will encourage applicant from all backgrounds to explore the possibility of starting a legal career. As such, it is suggested that this initiative is a progressive step by one of the top UK law firms; a step which will doubtless be followed by others.