When it comes to making real social change, it takes a huge effort. Not just one voice or one action, but a whole movement making a long-term commitment.
With 60+ firms onboard so far, we’re well on our way. Together, our mission is clear: to give young people from underprivileged backgrounds the chance to excel in the legal profession.
But there’s still more to do. Although some law firms run their own schemes, and our own work experience offering is growing all the time, there are still young people falling through the cracks; talented young minds who feel excluded from the world of law.
It’s time to help change that.
All kinds of businesses can help. Both law firms and organisations with in-house legal departments can sign up.
You’ll be joining good company. Our members include all top 20 of the largest UK firms by revenue, as well as firms across the UK and Republic of Ireland.
How can I get involved?
The PRIME Commitment and best practice
Every student who finds work experience via PRIME should be given the same chance to succeed. That means offering a certain quality of experience no matter the firm they go to, and it means setting the same level of access across the board. That’s why we came up with the PRIME Commitment. There might be some slight adjustments to your criteria – for instance, you might only accept students at year 12 and above, rather than at Year 9 – but in general, these are the rules you’ll commit to.
We’ve also provided a set of best practice guidelines to help you on your PRIME commitment journey, you can download these below…
Our mission is clear and that’s to provide access to work experience for young people who have least opportunity. Our firms work with recognised partners to ensure the selection criteria continue to be the fairest way to identify those with least opportunity.
We pledge to support our PRIME students by providing financial assistance so they can attend work experience. As a minimum our firms will provide refreshments and reimburse reasonable travel expenses.
PRIME schemes will properly prepare young people in advance of work experience. They’ll give practical information and pre-placement activities where appropriate. Our firms will ensure they’re able to meet the diverse needs of their PRIME students.
Our firms will give information to their PRIME students about the range of careers available in the legal profession and wider business (for lawyers and non-lawyers) and clear, honest information about the requirements for them. They’ll also give information on the potential routes into those careers, including the relevance of university education and other routes into the profession. To support this information, our firms will adopt a partnership approach with other relevant organisations (e.g universities and clients).
Our members will ensure that our PRIME students, through the work experience they receive, develop key personal and business skills. These invaluable skills (such as team work, communication, presentation, negotiation, making an impact and networking) are fundamental to a career in law and the wider business world.
We don’t want the PRIME experience to end when the work experience does. Our firms will provide a way for PRIME students to maintain contact with them after they leave – whether that be over email or a more formal structured mentoring programme or an annual reunion event.
Our member firms want to develop and improve on the work experience they offer. All of our firms pledge to monitor their work experience offering. They’ll ensure they share best practice and data amongst PRIME members to enable the membership to develop and assure the quality of the commitments made under PRIME, including with externally commissioned evaluation when considered appropriate.
PRIME members commit to providing opportunities to those who need it most. As a result, our firms pledge to offer a number of work experience places that is not less than 50% of the number of training contract places that the firm offers each year.
We make sure our firms won’t cut work experience short. PRIME work experience ensures that firms provide at least 30-35 hours of contact time per student (not necessarily on consecutive days).
Commonly asked questions
We have included here some of the most commonly asked questions about joining PRIME and the work experience you will need to offer.
If your question isn’t answered, you can get in touch with us at: email@example.com
• PRIME does not endorse friends and family of members of the firm, neighbours, clients, close contacts and similar (“friends and family”) joining PRIME programmes. This is because friends and family of law firm members already have privileged access to the profession through those relationships. We therefore request that PRIME programmes offered by your firms are only available to those that meet the PRIME criteria;
• The only exception to this would be contacts made through outreach and community programmes as part of a firm’s citizenship commitments. If these contacts fall into the PRIME target age group and fulfill the other PRIME eligibility criteria, they could apply for firms’ PRIME programmes through the usual formal channels;
• PRIME recognises that member firms will receive requests from time to time from friends and family asking for informal legal work experience and that these requests will need to be responded to fairly and respecting the importance of those relationships. Therefore, firms may wish to consider ways in which some existing member firms deal with these requests which includes hosting separate open days during the summer holidays. Please note that PRIME cannot offer advice or support for such sessions, although Su Brailey at: firstname.lastname@example.org can connect you with contacts at member firms who run these programmes so you can share ideas that may be appropriate for your firm;
• PRIME recognises that for smaller firms, with fewer internal HR and graduate recruitment resources, running multiple programmes can be challenging. We would still strongly request not mixing PRIME eligible students with friends and family. PRIME participants can very understandably feel that firms are only paying lip service to social mobility and by mixing the two groups reputational damage will occur to the firm and PRIME.
Students should not be left out of pocket when they take part in the scheme. Lunch and travel expenses should be reimbursed. Ideally fares should be paid in advance.
• Pre-purchase oyster cards, put a relevant amount on them and post them to students. Ask students to return them at the end of their placement and reuse them.
• Pre-purchase day-return rail tickets via an in-house travel system and send them to students in advance of their placement (you’ll need the name of their closest rail
station as well as the closest station to the office).
• Ask the organisations you’re working with to pre-purchase relevant travel cards then invoice you direct for reimbursement.
Unfortunately, attending a fee-paying college means that a student is not eligible for PRIME, even if they are there on a bursary. The reason for this is that PRIME is here to support those with no advantages and whilst a student may meet our other criteria, they have the support of an independent school which provides an advantage that PRIME students just won’t have.
Partner with a school
You could seek schools in ‘cold spots’ that will benefit most from your support, while at the same time having the resources to manage the partnership. Most firms target schools that have a high proportion of students eligible for FSM. If you want to do your own research into schools in a borough local to your offices, a useful website is the DfE’s school profile site where you can look up FSM and pupil premium status to help you target disadvantaged students.
Work with a charity partner
There are many out there who who broker school-business relationships and could help. A current selection is in the Prime Partners Section.
Speak to your local council
Your local council may have a team who can support you in linking up.
Many schools won’t permit students to be taken out of lessons so the scheme might have to run during school holidays. You will need to avoid exam periods so the summer holidays is a good option to offer.
If you are working with specific schools, identify when they are running their work experience weeks.
If you run your scheme at the same time as Ramadan, Muslim students may be fasting so are likely to get very tired. If you do run your scheme over this period, consider setting early starts and ending the day early. Eid will also mean the students will take a day out of the office to be at home for the festivities.
PRIME: Virtual and in-person events 2021/22 academic year:
The pandemic changed how law firms were able to deliver all interactions with students, with work experience needing to be moved online. However, as we start to hopefully move to a more normal working life, PRIME wants to provide some guidance on student interaction during the next academic year.
Virtual events have many advantages, not least in their ability to reach a wide range of students from across the UK. This helps to further break down barriers to the profession, give participating students insights into the work of law firm members and to build lasting relationships with law firm contacts for mentoring and support.
The one crucial thing however that virtual experience cannot provide is how it feels to walk through the doors of a law firm and into a very different world to the one participating PRIME students live in. The physical action of being in this different world has always been at the heart of what PRIME members have offered in the past and was a founding ethos of PRIME programmes. We would urge member firms not to lose sight of the importance of this aspect.
PRIME participants can learn a lot about a firm from the way in which they feel when they walk through the doors. From the reception teams they meet initially, to how helpful people are as they make their journey from reception to the spaces where their programme is being run. Throughout each visit they interact with a range of people and see and experience amazing workspaces and resources. Importantly they experience at first-hand what it feels like to work in an office with a range of different people around them. This, sadly, cannot be replicated in a virtual environment.
At PRIME we appreciate each member firm will be taking different approaches to re-integrating their own people and visitors back into their workspaces. It is likely that 2021/22 will be a transition period, but we would urge you not to lose sight of the importance of showing your PRIME participants the positive side of physically being in your workspaces and helping to remove some of the fear factor and imposter syndrome. So where possible please try to have some office-based initiatives, even if it is for a smaller group of participating students, or for just part of your work experience programme. We also very much hope that by 2022/23 in person experience will become the norm once again and will seamlessly work alongside virtual, giving greater flexibility for both larger scale outreach (virtual) to more bespoke smaller group visits (in-person).
Part of the PRIME Commitment is ensuring that you provide at least 30-35 hours of contact time per student (although not necessarily on consecutive days). This is not always going to be practical for a virtual programme and so should be considered when deciding on the format of your future programmes.