Flexible work experience: DWF

DWF has set up a hybrid work experience programme to help secondary school students get a realistic feel for life at a law firm. Karen Greenall, head of performance and engagement, discusses outreach and making the scheme flexible.
Students and volunteers in a classroom sitting around small group tables listening to a teacher
Photograph: DWF

DWF is a leading global provider of legal and integrated business services.

We want to inspire and raise the aspirations of young people in the most disadvantaged communities.

5 STAR Futures is our "world of work" programme aimed at year 10/11 students. It covers areas such as workplace behaviours, confidence, communication and resilience.

We work with a wide range of schools and higher education providers.

Starting outreach

When the programme began, we worked with Business in the Community to identify schools that would benefit from this support and 10 years on we are still working with some of these schools, such as All Hallows in Manchester.

As a member of PRIME, we have committed to nine key principles on offering work experience opportunities that improve social mobility for young people from low-income backgrounds.

We continue to work closely with education authorities and a broad range of diverse organisations across the UK.

One of the recent challenges we have faced is some of the red tape working with schools, but this is improving each year post pandemic.

Today we work with Speakers for Schools who help us target schools in the most disadvantaged areas in need of our support both in person and online.

Offering flexibility

Timing can be a challenge to ensure we can provide the right support and that it aligns with student timetables.

We have a fully flexible working model, listening to our talent of the future we know that this is what they want.

Students usually spend one to two weeks with DWF.

We offer in-person, online and hybrid activity so individuals get a real feel for what it's like to work with us.

Building confidence for aspiring lawyers

"When I first moved to the region at 11 years old with little understanding of the language, something like studying law seemed out of reach for me,” one participant recalls.

“I remember being so nervous when I first stepped into the DWF office, but everyone made me feel welcome straight away.

“I spoke about 5 STAR Futures at a staff meeting which helped me build confidence, and the programme was a great chance to meet new people.

“Each week I was assigned to a new department, and by the end of my placement, I felt confident that I would go on to university with plenty of prior knowledge and hands-on experience.”

Measuring impact and evolving

We see the programme as an opportunity to recruit our talent of the future, and measure success by how many individuals apply/we recruit.

Since the programme began over 10 years ago, our volunteers have worked with hundreds of students each year. We have a number of young people who have come through our 5 STAR programmes, particularly in our apprentice population.

We are always looking to work with a broader range of individuals to support the communities we live and work in.

Through our experiences with schools, we have evolved additional activities including 5 STAR Early Years working with year 6 students and online activities developed during the coronavirus pandemic.

It takes some time to coordinate from the central team, but many colleagues want to get involved.

Our team enjoy working with young individuals, learning how they think and being challenged by them.

“I got into this to support the young people on the programme, but I have gained so much myself from being involved,” said one volunteer.

Group photo of class in school uniform with several adults in workwear wearing lanyards

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