Nicholas Cheffings, PRIME’s Executive Chair since 2016, announced today in a letter to member firms that, when he steps down at the end of the month, current Board member Elizabeth Robertson, from Skadden, Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, will be taking on the role.
“I am writing to you today for the last time in my role as PRIME’s Executive Chair. I was pleased to take on the role six years ago. It is a cause close to my heart and I looked forward to continuing David Morley’s legacy of instigating change in the legal sector’s approach to opening up access to law firms.
A lot of progress has been made over the past few years, with social mobility programmes now established as part of most firms’ recruitment strategies and enormous steps taken to widen access to the profession. Whilst I have had the honour of steering PRIME, its success has very much been based on the contributions of all. PRIME is a collaborative organisation and the success we have had is a shared success thanks to our committed members who have continued to deliver quality work experience to eligible candidates across the UK and Republic of Ireland, reaching out further and better to those with talent and determination who would otherwise miss out on the opportunity to achieve their potential.
Our members consistently demonstrate the power of collaboration – in sharing best practices, in holding each other accountable and in moving the entire sector forward. There was no better example of this than in the way they responded to the need to change the delivery of work experience during the pandemic. We saw member firms delivering virtual programmes collectively, and others happily sharing their learnings, with the collective goal of supporting as many eligible students as possible.
Amongst the highlights in my time as Chair, I would have to include our Tenth Anniversary Conference last year. Bringing together over 200 delegates from 87 law firms, client companies and partner organisations to discuss building on our progress to date was an excellent representation of how far we have travelled on this journey as well as a reminder that we have not yet arrived at our final destination. Our discussions took us on from access and opportunity and it is clear that the challenge ahead will be translating our success in outreach and recruitment into similar and consistent success in retention and progression. It is also clear that this is a challenge our members are keen to take on and I am confident that it is one which will be overcome.
A highlight of the last two years has been the delivery of our virtual law insight workshops, where collaboration was again key to its success. With the involvement of our member firms, we were able to reach 463 students most in need of this opportunity. 463 students, at 31 schools across 16 different cold spot locations, where opportunities are scarce. 463 students who now have a better understanding of what a career in law might look like, the belief that this career is open to them and the confidence to pursue one if they so choose.
This is one of many initiatives that the PRIME Board has launched in my time as Executive Chair. One of the things that I was keen to do on my appointment was to broaden the range of voices and experiences around the Board table. The Board now has representatives not just from member firms from across the nation but also from our partner organisations, in-house legal teams and, more recently, our alumni network. It is this breadth of experience and viewpoint that is key to PRIME’s ability to support our members and students alike. It has been a pleasure working with current and past Board members during my time at PRIME and with the members of our working groups drawn from our Board member law firms, who have attended our meetings and contributed so willingly of their time and knowledge. All of these committed individuals have shared their considerable experience and expertise so generously to contribute extensively to PRIME’s work. I have also been aided enormously by many business colleagues at Hogan Lovells, who have dedicated so much of their time to ensuring that PRIME has been able to function as effectively as it has. My thanks go to them, particularly to Clare Harris, and also to Su Brailey, our Engagement Consultant who has been everything one could wish for in a colleague. I am delighted that she will be continuing in her role.
As I step down at the end of this month, it is with enormous pleasure that I am able to tell you that the Board have unanimously agreed to appoint Elizabeth Robertson of Skadden, Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, as my successor. In interviewing Elizabeth, an existing Board member, for the role, the panel were clear that her own story, her passion for the social mobility agenda, her credibility and reputation and her personality will all be tremendous assets to PRIME. I wish her and the Board, under her leadership, every success in building on the achievements of PRIME to date. Elizabeth will be in touch with you all in the coming months to share her thoughts, and to hear yours, on leading PRIME forward to the next stage of improving socio-economic diversity within all levels of the legal profession.
With Elizabeth looking towards the future, it just leaves me to wish you all the best with your firm’s endeavours as part of PRIME and to say thank you for all of your support to date. The legal profession is an extraordinarily competitive one but PRIME has shown us that, when it matters, it is also one which works together to make a difference. Thank you to you and your firm for helping to change the narrative.“