Year end is a time of reflection, and with the Board having recently extended my term as Chair for a further three years, effective from 1 May 2019. I have been reviewing with pride the enormous progress PRIME has made over the past two and a half years.
I am very pleased to be able to continue as PRIME’s Chair. This is a cause close to my heart. Of course, the success of PRIME is based on the contributions of all, 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. It was encouraging to see good representation of member firms in the Social Mobility Index 2018. Being a PRIME member represents a serious and genuine commitment from firms and I recognise that a lot of time and effort goes into running the work experience programmes and making sure that they provide a valuable experience – thank you.
The legal sector and indeed PRIME are often the focus of external critics. What goes on behind the scenes is hugely important to recognise and, at PRIME, we have made several changes to put us in a position to be able us better to achieve our aims. One of the things that I was keen to do on my appointment was to take the opportunity to have a broader range of voices and experiences around the Board table, representing our membership and regions we are targeting across the UK. Since May 2016 we have appointed:
- David Ampaw, partner at DLA Piper;
- Kathryn Davies of the Education Endowment Foundation;
- Ty Jones, Director of CSR & Engagement at DWF
- Sarah Macdonald, Chief Counsel at BT;
- Nick Scott, Managing Partner of Brodies LLP; and
- Chris White, the founder of Aspiring Solicitors.
Former Board members, Tish Christias and Janet Legrand, have now stepped down, having completed their terms of office. I thank them both for their commitment and am deeply grateful for their insight and guidance.
We have also formed working groups of committed volunteers from member firms who are instrumental in supporting the Board in carrying out PRIME’s objectives, and we have hired an engagement consultant in a paid position to ensure greater efficiency in the running of PRIME.
Together we have delivered a much improved website which feedback tells us is easier for students, parents, teachers and members to navigate, driving more traffic to our site and work experience programmes. Do take a moment to read the inspiring stories of PRIME alumni, published as case studies on our website, real life evidence that PRIME is having a positive impact on entry to the profession. We also introduced last year contextualised recruitment for PRIME members and, importantly, will soon see data for our first year which will demonstrate how PRIME is meeting its objectives. All of this has been made possible through the new donation structure we introduced, which has resulted in capital to invest in these initiatives.
Of course, there is always more to do. With year-end comes a new beginning, and we must always be looking forward. At our well attended member conference, Moving the Needle, earlier this year we identified what should be the priorities for PRIME moving forward. We all want to see results and to shift the needle. That is why we are part of PRIME.
We agreed that insufficient attention has been given historically to the collection of data to allow us to track and so evidence in an empirical way the real impact that PRIME is having. That is why we have established a working group to develop an impact tracking methodology and this will be a major focus for 2019. Our other priority project will be targeting cold spots – ensuring we reach the best candidates wherever they are located in the UK. In doing this, we will be working with other organisations who share a common interest in addressing this issue.
That there is more to do to shift the needle is certain, but it’s important too to recognise the positive progress that PRIME and the profession have made. PRIME members across the UK are doing good work to improve social mobility and they are to be applauded for their achievements. Many young people have benefitted from them and many more will do so in the future.
Nicholas Cheffings, Chair of PRIME Commitment.