Diversity Access Scheme review
During 2021, we carried out a review of the DAS, to assess:
- whether the scheme is working in terms of its criteria and the people it targets
- its impact over the past 16 years
- the efficiency of the processes used to administer it
Why do we need the Diversity Access Scheme?
The profession is making unprecedented efforts to address fair access and diversity, but despite these initiatives, socio-economic and educational inequalities continue to widen and have been exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those from disadvantaged socio-economic groups, access to the profession could get harder.
I wouldn’t be a qualified solicitor without DAS
We believe that the DAS is unique in its ability to address multiple disadvantages. It has a truly transformational impact on the individuals it helps. Whilst other programmes may offer mentoring, work experience or part bursaries, no other national programme offers the complete support package of the DAS.
A summary of our findings
Data collected over a five-year period shows that we successfully reach our target group of aspiring solicitors from underrepresented groups who face significant barriers to entry.
More than 250 talented individuals have been supported through the DAS since it was established in 2005.
Around 65% of awardees from the last five years are either qualified solicitors or have secured training contracts – this is higher than the national average figure for the LPC-training contract conversion rate (57%).
A key part of the evaluation involved focus groups with alumni and with sponsors. Overall, the feedback was very positive from both groups.
Going forward: what we will address in 2022
1. Build learning and development opportunities into DAS
We’ll build formal soft-skill support sessions into the scheme, including:
- commercial awareness training
- advice on interview technique
- support with training contract applications
Training will be delivered through our careers team and DAS sponsors.
2. Remove all financial and geographical barriers to DAS work experience
We’ll ensure that all work experience brokered through the DAS continues to be paid.
Placements will be offered both in London and regionally according to student location and interest.
3. Mentoring support
We’ll prepare stronger mentoring guidance for our mentors and awardees.
We’ll also recruit more mentors from the pool of qualified DAS alumni. In our survey, there was considerable support from participants that qualified DAS alumni should be asked to consider becoming DAS mentors.
Where an awardee needs specific support, we’ll offer dual mentorship targeting different areas of need.
It's helped me to become a D&I advocate in my own organisation
4. Raise the profile of the DAS within the profession
Working with our communications, press and campaigns teams, we’ll produce more content to showcase the scheme, raise its profile within the profession and support our sponsors to do the same through their professional networks.
5. Sponsorship to support more DAS awards
We’ll improve our sponsorship proposal and offer more structured tiered options for supporting, as well as bespoke packages for higher levels of sponsorship.
The scholarship element of the award is central to awardees: in our focus groups, many mentioned that without the DAS, financial barriers would have prevented them from pursuing a legal career.
One participant acknowledged that the DAS “took away the financial burden and worry” and without it, her career “wouldn’t have been financially viable”.
Another stated that continuing to study “would have been a real struggle”.
All participating awardees agreed that the DAS helped to “speed things up” or “fast tracked” their journey and most agreed that it had a positive impact on their careers.
Some awardees felt that the DAS award gave them an edge in securing a training contract, with one participant noting that “the DAS was recognised positively in a training contract interview” and another agreeing that she was able to improve her CV with “all the work experience brokered by DAS”.
The DAS gave me a boost of confidence and focus for my career
Participants agreed that the work experience offered through DAS was high quality and provided variety, as it included both private practice and in-house opportunities.
Two awardees were offered training contracts as a direct result of DAS work experience placements.
One of the awardees noted that she found out about her training contract through the DAS and “wouldn’t have known about it otherwise”. Another secured a DAS brokered vacation scheme and was subsequently offered a training contract there.
Most of the participants were happy with the mentoring aspect of the scheme. Mentors were described as “amazing”, “incredible” and “confidence boosting”.
One recalled that her mentor had not only supported her with vacation scheme and training contract applications but had also invited her to his offices to meet his colleagues, explain the application process at the firm and provide interview coaching.
One participant noted how she was paired with a mentor who was a former DAS awardee herself, who had coincidentally attended the same college and university.
I can’t wait to pay it forward; it has changed my life
In terms of the application process, participants said that they had found the interview ‘challenging and rigorous’.
One participant said that the interview encouraged her to seriously consider why she wanted to join the profession, as well as testing her knowledge and passion for the law.
Many of the participants agreed that the DAS award had made them more engaged in diversity and inclusion issues in the sector.
Four mentioned having collaborated with the Law Society on podcasts, blogs and DAS outreach.
Others highlighted diversity and inclusion work they had taken part in since being awarded the DAS, including:
- speaking about the scheme at their university
- writing for the Solicitor’s Journal
- being part of a panel discussion on Radio 4