Flexible work experience: Freeths

Freeths set up a new pathway for aspiring lawyers early in their careers. Discover how to build support for a new programme and build a diverse, engaged and healthy pipeline of talent. Pam Kaur, early careers manager at Freeths LLP, explains the approach.
A young female legal secretary is walking through the corridors of the law firm carrying documents. She looks happy and proud to be working here. She is turning and looking into one of the lawyers offices which has its modern wooden door open. More files can be seen in here . She is dressed smartly and smiling. She is white with long blonde hair.

Freeths is one of the UK’s leading full-service law firms, with approximately 1,000 freethinking colleagues working across 13 UK offices.

As part of our Early Talent Pathway, we offer in-person, office-based, week-long (full time) work experience placements for second year law students wanting to pursue a career in law.

We launched in 2022 and our first trainee joined us in September 2023, with a healthy pipeline of candidates for next year.

Challenge of developing a work experience programme

Promoting the programme, as a new offering, has been our biggest challenge.

It can be hard work trying to get a programme recognised and established, especially if you have never had a programme like this before.

We believe that by giving students an opportunity to see what life is like at our firm we can engage the best, diverse talent sooner with the opportunity to assess candidates outside of a formal interview.

Planning and promoting the scheme

In the first year of our programme, we worked with an external network called the Young Diverse World Changers to help us promote our opportunities to students from ethnic minority or lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Additionally, we promoted widely at a range of universities, including several known to have higher-than-average proportions of diverse students. 

We are using the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Framework to support us in taking a more strategic approach to work experience and ensuring it is linked to our talent pipeline.

We have a structured plan and process to:

  • attract and recruit candidates and in particular those from diverse backgrounds
  • work with the firm to understand our strategy 
  • gain endorsement to bring the vision to life

The results so far

We have had some great traction at partner universities and the programme has picked up a lot of interest now.

The firm has been really impressed by the calibre and ability of the candidates that have come through the process so far.

The scheme has been highly successful and has taken some of the pressure off our graduate programme.

It’s been great for the firm as it has strengthened our position as an employer of choice and has allowed us to engage with talent at an earlier stage, not to mention the diversity within the candidate pool that we have seen.

Feedback from participants has been positive. Students have told us they feel the scheme is of great benefit in enabling them to get to know us and our culture as a firm before deciding whether to join us as a graduate and increased their confidence and skills when applying for graduate roles.

It gives them insight into what life is like at a national law firm and it’s an alternative route to our legal assistant foundation programme tosecure a training contract with us. 

Measuring the impact

Of the students on our Early Talent Pathway in 2023:

  • 39% came from an ethnic minority background
  • 4% disclosed that they identifyas LGBT
  • 2% disclosed that they identify as being disabled 
  • 70% attend a non-selective state school

We have seen a good proportion of diverse students who have disclosed information about their socioeconomic status.

This is a great achievement for the firm, as students are recognising our values and feel comfortable enough to discuss their personal situations with us.

Next steps

We intend to continue to run the programme annually. 

We hope to expand the programme and mirror what we are doing for undergraduates across to apprentices and school leavers, helping us to build strong pipelines for our solicitor apprenticeship programme.

Our tips

Getting endorsement for a new project

We found it key to think about a launch strategy.  It is important to plan well before engaging stakeholders within the business.

Try to pre-empt what people might ask so you are prepared to take tricky questions.

Start small and build

Finally, we would advise that firms start with modest numbers and build up as the programme becomes more established.

There are lots of moving parts and tweaking at the beginning. By starting out with smaller numbers, the set-up of the scheme is more manageable.

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