Pathways to Law Participants are Four Times More likely to Accept a Place at a Leading University

To coincide with The Sutton Trust’s first Student Destinations report on 25 October, we are pleased to share a guest blog from Laura Bruce, Acting Head of Programmes and Partnerships, demonstrating the impact of The Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Law programme.

Founded in 2006, Pathways to Law is the Trust’s flagship access to the professions programme and has now supported over 3000 young people to explore the legal sector. We are proud to work in partnership with 13 universities and over 70 law firms to deliver the programme, which includes a work experience placement in a law firm, exposure to university life and a national conference.

Our report uses an independent UCAS evaluation, using data spanning ten years, which showed that young people who took part in the programme between 2006-2016 were over four times more likely to accept a place at a leading university compared to their peers with similar grades and backgrounds. Furthermore, 66% of those who went onto university studied a law degree with the other most common disciplines being politics, history and sociology.

The programme was created in response to Sutton Trust research which showed that over two thirds of the barristers at the top chambers had attended independent schools, as had three quarters of the judges, and over half the partners at the leading law firms. This is in comparison to 7% of the general population. Whilst these overall statistics are stubborn and take a long time to influence, we are pleased to show progress on increasing access to leading universities and law degrees through the programme. This is the crucial first step towards change.

Over the last 12 years we have seen many changes within the sector. The discussions around social mobility have increased, as has action. We often speak of the legal sector as leading the charge in addressing social mobility and we are pleased to support the PRIME commitment to maintain focus on the issue and provide a forum for collaboration.

As I explore in my blog for the report release, action is not enough, data is key to understanding not only the impact of the intervention but also which aspects of the programme are working and why. Accessing this data is challenging and it becomes even more challenging when faced with measuring future outcomes such as career destination, career progression and long term benefits.

We have some excellent case studies of students on the programme but are striving to provide more evidence of impact. Our next challenge will be to consider how we systematically collect data to evidence routes into the professions; we know this is an area law firms are grappling with themselves and hope to continue to collaborate with you through the programme and PRIME.

To those of you that have supported Pathways to Law to date, we thank you for your support and hope you will join us in celebrating the programme’s success. We ask you to continue on the journey with us to ensure we continue to improve social mobility. We are particularly grateful to our funding firms and the Legal Education Foundation, without whom the programme would not run.

If this is your first exposure to the programme, please join the conversation and find out how your law firm could support the next generation. There is still a lot more to do and we can only achieve it by working together.

Laura Bruce

Acting Head of Programmes and Partnerships, The Sutton Trust