Magic circle signs up to contextual recruitment in new social mobility push

The whole magic circle is among the latest batch of firms set to adopt the Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) in a bid to promote social mobility.

Along with Linklaters, Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May, Macfarlanes, Travers Smith and Norton Rose Fulbright have also signed up.

Linklaters will introduce the system from October, meaning its winter 2015 vacation schemers will be the first to go through the process. 

The CRS, created by diversity organisation Rare Recruitment, compares the economic and social circumstances of applicants. It uses information from two Rare databases: one contains the exam results of 3,500 English secondary schools and sixth form colleges and the other contains 2.5 million UK postcodes.

It then fuses this information and candidates’ responses together to produce contextual data on every candidate.

Laura King, global head of people and talent at Clifford Chance, said: “We are proud to be the founding partners of the Rare CRS project. The two-year project has involved careful, painstaking research, and put practical application at its centre from the start.”

Hogan Lovells and Baker & McKenzie were the first two law firms to adopt the CRS system, in May. They were followed by Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills in June.

“We have been doing a lot on social mobility over many years and this is an extension of that work,” Linklaters graduate recruitment partner Simon Branigan told Lawyer 2B. ”It has always been on our agenda internally; however the profession has clearly been lagging behind other industries when it comes to social mobility and is losing out on some candidates who have lots of potential.”

A June 2015 report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission found that within law, banking and accountancy, social background is still an important factor when searching for an entry-level job at elite firms.

Along with Baker & McKenzie, Linklaters was one of only two law firms named as social mobility ‘champions’ by the government in 2014. It is also one of the few firms to publish detailed social mobility data for its employees. As of 2015, 23 per cent of partners, 24 per cent of associates and 21 per cent of junior associates attended a UK fee-paying school.

Linklaters diversity statistics 2015

”As graduate recruitment partner I sit through our wash-ups after interview, and I feel we are already quite sophisticated at looking at a candidate’s full background,” Branigan said. “Having 4 As at A Level and going to a tough comprehensive will not necessarily push someone through, but it is one thing to take into account. The concern we have had is that excellent people weren’t getting through the process because they don’t possess some of the life experiences that people from a more privileged background get.”

“The contextual recruitment system will help us look at substance rather rather than polish.”

Branigan predicted contextual recruitment will be “a breakthough for recruitment generally. I think it will lead to candidates getting thorugh the process who may not otherwise have been able to do so.” 

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