Pathways in Law: contributing to a more inclusive and diverse workforce

Vikki Massarano is a Partner at Arc Pensions Law in Leeds and a Future First volunteer, here she talks to us about the importance of role models, providing work experience to young people and how it can directly contribute to an inclusive and diverse workforce.

I started working with Future First in 2018 after Arc Pensions Law opened a Leeds office in 2017 – although the partnership between the charity and our London office goes back further than that.

Each year we welcome 12 sixth form students from schools connected with Future First to the Leeds and London offices for work experience placements. Thankfully, despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, we still managed to arrange webinars and virtual placements for students last year.

Not only is it a pleasure to provide these opportunities it is also vital, because the legal profession needs to attract young people, both female and male and from all backgrounds. Having a wide range of personality types, backgrounds and genders in the legal profession enables us to make better decisions overall and provide better advice to our clients because we have a wider viewpoint.

The work Future First does with firms such as Arc is essential because relatable role models make a real difference to young people as they consider their future. One of the things many of the students say is that they are surprised how easy it is to talk to us. They realise that a partner in a law firm is often just like them. It is easy to assume that people who work in Law are a certain type of person, but really we are just normal people. Many of us have ordinary backgrounds and many of us are women.

Many young people aren’t lucky enough to have strong role models and they need to have the opportunities that Future First provides to widen their horizons and give them the confidence to strive for success. It’s especially important for young women to have strong female role models so they can see women doing careers they may have traditionally associated with men. They need to see that if that is a career they want to pursue, their gender shouldn’t stop them from doing it.

Young women can often lack confidence and there is evidence that they are less likely than men to apply for jobs they don’t feel fully capable of doing. While there is work to do within the recruitment process to address this, it is also important that we provide opportunities for talented young women to experience careers such as Law so we help to address any doubts they may have about their capabilities or suitability.

Of course, it’s not just the students that benefit from the work placements, we do too. As well as making us feel we are giving something back we also learn from the students. We learn about how they perceive us and that makes us more conscious of how we present ourselves.

While the Law does have a good record for attracting young women into the profession, there can be a problem with retention as women become more senior. Hopefully, one of the positives to come out of the pandemic will be that people realise that it is easier to work from home and for both men and women to work flexibly and share family responsibilities. It would be great if fewer women were lost to the legal profession.  

As an Employer Partner, ARC Pensions Law supports Future First’s work by inviting Year 12 students from Future First’s network of schools who are eligible for free school meals or have parents who did not attend university to complete a week’s work experience placement at their London and Leeds office locations. Students have the opportunity to experience all aspects of a modern law firm, developing their professional and employability skills for a future career in law. Find out more about becoming a Future First employer partner.

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