PRIME currently has 62 Member Firms, all of whom 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.
Here we speak to Ella Adlard, Early Talent Acquisition Advisor at one of our member firms, CMS, about what makes a successful work experience programme and what social mobility means to CMS.
What is your role at CMS?
I am an Early Talent Acquisition Advisor at CMS. I am based in Sheffield and look after our School and College programmes including CMS Connect (PRIME).
What does social mobility mean to CMS?
Social Mobility is fundamental to our future success. Diverse talent will lead to a more inclusive, successful and thriving workplace. Social Mobility runs through all CMS Early Talent programmes. It is embedded in our recruitment practises, strategy, and our focus. We work hard to support students from low socio-economic backgrounds and do this through our Law Scholarship programme, CMS Connect (PRIME), contextual recruitment (RARE), university and event focus and much more.
What has been your involvement in the firm’s PRIME work experience programme, CMS Connect?
I am responsible for the promotion, recruitment and delivery of the programme. This year I collaborated with colleagues from our Responsible Business and Social Impact team to plan and deliver PRIME to 56 students across four offices – our largest cohort yet!
Where did the work experience take place? Why was it decided to offer the opportunity at multiple offices?
Following the pandemic, we were determined to get students back into our offices to meet us face-to-face. We designed a bespoke hybrid programme to ensure students got the best possible experience that was reflective of the way we work here at CMS. Participants spent three days in their allocated office (London, Bristol, Sheffield or Glasgow) and worked virtually for the remainder two days (facilitated on Microsoft Teams.) By delivering across multiple locations, we widened access to allow greater number of students the opportunity to gain paid, legal work experience at a leading international law firm.
What were students able to do as part of the programme?
Students took part in multiple activities across the week. We wanted to ensure they got a good insight into different careers and opportunities as well as learning new skills. A few highlights included:
- Solicitor Apprentice take over event. This was an opportunity to quiz current apprentices about their career, their application hints and tips and their motivations for completing an apprenticeship over the traditional university route.
- Client Carousel – to expose students to as many opportunities as possible we invited 7 of our key clients, many of whom are household names, to meet and talk to our students. They heard all about how CMS support their businesses, what opportunities they have for young people and general career advice.
- Dragons’ Den competition – on the final day the students took part in a presentation. We asked them to imagine that they were pitching for a new client. They had to pull together everything they had learnt across the week and presented to each other and a senior panel of lawyers.
Who was involved in delivering the programme?
We know how important it is for participants to meet a varied and diverse range of representatives in order to gain a real insight into the legal industry. Therefore, students met individuals from all across the firm, not just lawyers. Some highlights included:
- We hosted a business services “carousel” where students could ask colleagues about their role at CMS.
- Client Carousel where students met 7 key clients including many household names.
- Partner welcome and Q+A.
- Skills workshops with Young Citizens and Causeway Education.
- Solicitor Apprentice takeover panel and Q+A.
How have CMS involved their clients in the delivery of this programme and how has this benefitted the students?
We were keen for students to hear first-hand from our clients, allowing them to better understand what CMS do on a day-to-day basis. We organised a client “carousel” with some top household names. The clients delivered a short introductory presentation, detailing how they work with CMS. Students also heard about early talent opportunities within the client’s company. Prior to the session, students received presentation skills training to ensure they were confident in approaching the meetings.
What do you think was the most successful aspect?
The most successful activity was the “Dragons Den” experience on the final day. We asked them to imagine themselves as CMS lawyers, pitching for a new client. They had to draw on their experiences throughout the week to deliver a five-minute presentation in front of senior lawyers. Here is some feedback from the students:
“I think the best part of the week was the dragons den project as we were really allowed to go ahead and work on something as a team and create something we were all proud of.”
“The best part of the week is the whole thing however I thoroughly enjoyed the dragons den.”
CMS have paid students attending their work experience this year. Tell us a little about the reasons behind this.
Students, particularly those from lower-socio economic backgrounds, would typically have to forgo paid part-time work to complete legal work experience. As an employer passionate about social mobility, we felt best practice is to pay students for their participation in the programme.
What feedback have you had from the students that attended?
We asked the following questions pre and post event. This allowed us to measure their experiences. Both questions saw a rise in confidence.
How confident do you feel in applying and securing a job with a prestigious law firm?(1 being not very confident, 10 being very confident): Pre-event: 5.86 out of 10; Post-event: 7.44 out of 10
How confident do you feel in answering the statement: ‘I know what working at a prestigious law firm is like.’ (1 being not very confident, 10 being very confident): Pre-event: 3.90; Post-event: 8.19
What are the next steps for these students and CMS? Will you stay in touch?
Yes – CMS Connect is a sustained developmental programme offering support across a two-year period. All participants are allocated a mentor and invited to attend a series of events including a UCAS skills session, application workshops and commercial awareness webinars. All students will also be invited to apply to our future programmes including Solicitor Apprenticeships and the vacation scheme.
What advice would you give to laws firms creating a social mobility work experience programme for the first time?
- Establish connections with schools and colleges in order to promote the activity.
- Think about where the programme will have the most impact for example social mobility cold spots.
- Plan a varied experience with shadowing, workshops and competitions.
- Pay your participants for their time (this will help with onboarding and attendance too!)
- Make it a core part of your early careers programme and ensure it isn’t just a one touch programme.