Stephen Lawrence charity and Freshfields combat BME male gap

Freshfields and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust are collaborating to improve access to the legal profession for black and minority ethnic (BME) male students.

The Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship aims to combat the low numbers of BME men from low income households in the law.

It will provide up to four scholarships each year, which will include mentoring, training, work experience, a £3,500 living expenses contribution and a guaranteed training contract interview.

Freshfields’ senior partner Will Lawes said: “The legal profession still needs to do more to encourage wider access and opportunities for progression for the very best talent.

“The purpose of this scholarship is to provide black and ethnic minority students from less privileged backgrounds with a genuine opportunity of building a successful career in the law…”

Doreen Lawrence OBE, mother of Stephen and founder of the trust, said: “The trust has a track record of supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to begin careers in architecture (Stephen wanted to become an architect from the age of seven) but we want to expand this model to support talented and driven young people into other professions too – including law, finance, medicine and media.

“By providing gifted young people at the beginning of their career with a scholarship, we will establish lasting relationships that will mean there is a rich talent pool of candidates for top positions in the long term.”

The first scholars will be selected in summer 2013. Applications will be welcomed from exceptionally-talented students who are committed to pursuing a career in the legal profession and who satisfy all of the following four criteria:

1. Black: African or African-Caribbean or mixed-race African or mixed-race African-Caribbean.

2. Male

3. Studying a qualifying law degree course at a UK university and in the first year of a three-year course (or with two years to graduation after this academic year in the case of longer courses).

4. From a lower-income household: attended a state (non-fee-paying) school and satisfies at least one of the following:

a. Has been eligible for free school meals;

b. Attended a school that is significantly above the UK average in terms of number of students eligible for free school meals;

c. Is in the first generation of the candidate’s immediate family to attend university; and,

i. In the case of a full-time student, is in receipt of a maintenance grant from one of the UK bodies: Student Finance England, Student Awards Agency for Scotland, Student Finance Wales, Student Finance NI; or,

ii. In the case of a part-time student, would have received a maintenance grant from one of the above UK bodies had he been a full-time student.

d. Has an overwhelming case that although the student does not meet criteria a, b or c above, it is appropriate for him to be considered for inclusion in the scheme.

This week, details of UK students £20bn debt came to light (6 February 2012).