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LOOKING TO NEW PLACES FOR LAWYERS

DAVID MORLEY<br /> <strong>SENIOR PARTNER, ALLEN &amp; OVERY</strong><br /><br /> IN April, the initial findings of the government&rsquo;s Panel on Fair Access to the Professions were announced. It said that the most socially exclusive professions are law, politics and the media. The situation is getting worse, and these professions more exclusive.<br /> <br /> Partly, this is down to informal networks in traditionally &ldquo;middle-class&rdquo; professions, where work experience and internships are often handed out on the basis of who you know. But another issue is the aspirations of people who do not come from professional backgrounds and who might never consider a career in law, finance or medicine.<br /> <br /> Allen &amp; Overy is doing its bit to change things, when its first Smart Start Experience programme begins this week. Over 100 sixth-formers will come to the firm&rsquo;s offices for a scheme designed to broaden access to the professions.<br /> <br /> The scheme is not about learning to become a lawyer, but giving young people an insight into the world of business and raising their aspirations about careers they might not otherwise have considered.<br /> <br /> We want to tackle both of these issues to create a more level playing field for students from all backgrounds to gain work experience that can provide a head-start in a career. But we also want to raise these young people&rsquo;s aspirations and show them the real mix of careers and opportunities available in a business like ours.<br /> <br /> On the week-long course, students will take part in interactive challenges that will teach them how to debate and work in a team through challenges including learning how to present a legal defence, and a business game where students will negotiate the sale of a fictional football club.<br /> <br /> This is the first year that we have run the scheme, and it has already been praised by the government&rsquo;s task force. We hope that in the years to come we will extend it to our international offices and that it will encourage others to do something similar to tackle this important issue.