Research shows impact of law’s contextual recruitment scheme

Using Rare’s Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) makes law firms 50 per cent more likely to hire students from disadvantaged backgrounds, a new report has claimed.

The CRS, which launched one year ago today, compares the economic and social circumstances of applicants, using information from two databases: one contain 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.

Hogan Lovells and Baker & McKenzie were the first two law firms to adopt the CRS system, in May 2015. They were followed by Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills in June and the entire magic circle in September.

Data drawn from the CRS’s first 12 months of operation showed that applications to top firms come disproportionately from the south and those with more advantaged backgrounds. Top performing students from lower performing schools are 15 per cent less likely to apply to top firms than the average.

The report also showed the impact of outreach work from firms to disadvantaged schools. For example, Tower Hamlets, a heavy focus of outreach work from City firms, is the fifth most likely borough in London to produce applications to firms using CRS.

Rare managing director Raphael Mokades said: “The early signs of a new approach to graduate recruitment are encouraging, with some clear indications that greater use of contextual data can widen the talent pool and identify bright graduates who have outperformed their circumstances and might otherwise be missed.  This expands the available student base for top employers and ensures those with genuinely impressive achievements, and potential are not missed, whatever their backgrounds.

“The data also shows that first-rate students with good A-Level grades from lower performing schools are less likely to apply to top employers. To bring more talent into the graduate pool, contextual data needs to be paired with outreach programmes to disadvantaged areas, where you can see a real impact.”