The Social Mobility Foundation has recently published its Employer Index Report for 2020, which ranks UK employers on the actions they are taking to access and progress talent from all backgrounds.
Now in its fourth year, the Index is seen as the leading authority on employer best practice within the field of social mobility, and the Foundation commends the 75 organisations that secured places on the Index for ‘showing what’s possible with regard to increasing social mobility’.
Encouragingly, law firms accounted for more than one third of the organisations on the Index, with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (4th overall) securing the highest rank within the sector.
Other law firms placed in the top 10 overall include Browne Jacobson (5th), Herbert Smith Freehills (7th) and Baker McKenzie (10th).
Naturally, our eyes were drawn to the ‘Recruitment and Selection’ pages of the report, which assessed an organisation’s performance within two main categories:
- removing barriers that prevent individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds progressing to selection, and
- rewarding current ability and future potential over past academic performance.
In other words, the Index recognises organisations that are moving away from recruitment practices that reward ‘polish over potential’.
‘Blind’ recruitment practices can certainly help in this regard and, as the report makes clear, those employers who provided data to the Foundation have made huge strides over the past few years. For example:
- 46% of employers do not request the names of applicants, which is up from 18% in 2017.
- 37% do not ask for grades, up from 13% in 2017.
- 46% do not ask for the name of the university an applicant attended, up from 18% in 2017.
These figures suggest that a significant shift in recruitment practices is taking place nationwide, and at NQS we know that we can play an important part in this process too.
While we can be proud that the legal sector dominates the Index, we can’t help but think that more could be done with regard to geographical bias within recruitment practices.
What do we mean by ‘geographical bias’? Essentially, it’s the snobbery that exists regarding experience gained in London as opposed to, basically, anywhere else.
Although we don’t have any hard data to prove that this geographical bias affects social mobility, it doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to see a link. After all, it’s difficult to achieve social mobility if you don’t have… mobility.
While it would be wrong not to recognise the differences in the work undertaken by ‘Regional’ as opposed to ‘City’ firms – where the transactions and disputes advised upon are often of higher value and complexity – all too often we see applications from candidates with huge amounts of potential being dismissed out of hand simply because of their ‘Regional’ experience.
Having worked in legal recruitment for nearly 17 years, I realised long ago that most lawyers haven’t got a clue about how their colleagues within different departments go about their work. If they don’t know what the lawyer down the corridor does on a day-to-day basis, why do they make so many assumptions about the workload of a lawyer based 200+ miles away?
If we are to continue to move away from recruitment practices that reward ‘polish over potential’, isn’t it time that we investigate a junior candidate’s experience a little deeper before excluding them from the process?