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The Times highlights successes of Law School’s Widening Participation work.

23 January 2015

Giving bright teenagers from non-privileged backgrounds the confidence to aim high and believe that top universities and a career in law are within their reach is at the heart of the Pathways to Law programme, the largest of its kind in the UK.


An article in The Times highlights the successful widening participation work of Law School staff and students. Pathways to Law involves a group of 35 A level students attending sessions at the University throughout the two years of their studies. As the article explains, activities include court visits, work placements, a national conference, as well lectures, tutorials, CV writing workshops, practical advice about higher education, careers and finance, parents/carers events and a graduation. 


The Law School has long been at the forefront of widening participation work in the University, running a series of outreach activities for groups of people currently under-represented at the University. These aim to raise aspirations, confidence and attainment, encouraging pupils to consider studying at top research institutions like Bristol – and, hopefully to apply to study law here. Schemes include the Meriton Law Enrichment Project (, the  Employment Outreach Project and a Human Rights Act initiative and summer schools ( - as well as Pathways to Law. 


For further information about this work, contact Lois Bibbings, Senior Lecturer in Law (, or Alex O’Driscoll in the Widening Participation and Undergraduate Recruitment Office (


How less priviledged teenagers are being helped on the way to a legal career

Pathways to Law is opening up what has in the past been an elitist profession, writes Grania Langdon-Down


Giving bright teenagers from non-privileged backgrounds the confidence to aim high and believe that top universities and a career in law are within their reach is at the heart of the Pathways to Law programme, the largest of its kind in the UK. 

Talk to recent graduates, and their enthusiasm for the programme is infectious. Both 19-year-old Sam Ogilvy and 18-year-old Alex Farrell are setting their sights on careers in City law firms, while Amber Grant, 18, wants to be a human rights barrister. 

All three say that without Pathways, they would not have believed a legal career achievable. “While law is still an area in which traditional private schools and the old-boy network play a part,” says Sam, “Pathways worked to give us the same chances, which we would simply not have had access to by ourselves.” 

Since it was established in 2006 by the Sutton Trust and the Legal Education Foundation, with support from major law firms, Pathways to Law has inspired and supported 2,400 pupils during their A level years. To take part, the teenagers must have achieved at least five As or A*s at GCSE, come from state schools or colleges, and be either the first in their family to attend university or eligible for free school meals. 

The teenagers spend two years attending sessions at a host university, building employability skills, learning about university and experiencing the legal profession through their work placement. 

With research showing 70 per cent of judges and 55 per cent of top law firm partners went to fee-paying schools — even though private schools educate only 7 per cent of the population — the challenge is to encourage young people from low and middle-income backgrounds to see that what matters is their drive and ambition.

James Turner, the trust’s programmes director says: “If we are to broaden access to the legal profession, it is crucial that law firms continue working together to ensure that opportunities are open to young people based on their talent and ability, rather than their background.” 

There is still a long way to go, says David Morley, worldwide senior partner of City giant Allen & Overy, which has supported the scheme from the start by offering a work experience week that includes time shadowing lawyers, advice on entry to the profession and other skills-related sessions. “The 400 Pathways students who graduate each year represent a significant step forward but we need much more diversity in the sector,” he says. 

“Broadening access is not just crucial for social mobility, but also central to the long-term competitiveness and relevance of the profession.”

The highlights for Sam were the work experience at Blake Lapthorn and Clifford Chance, trips to the Supreme Court, networking sessions with solicitors and barristers and the national residential conference at the University of Warwick for all those on the programme.

“If it hadn’t been for Pathways to Law I would not have gone on to study law and especially not at UCL,” he says. “Without the benefits it gave me, I simply would not have been a good enough candidate.” 

Alex, who lives with her grandparents and is the first in her family to go to university, is reading law at Bristol University. Her first taste of law was a week’s work experience with the Crown Prosecution Service in Gloucester during her GCSEs. Inspired, she applied to go on the Pathways programme. 

Through it, she went to Bristol crown court and the Inner Temple in London and did some work experience at Osborne Clarke in Bristol and Pinsent Masons in Birmingham. 

“Pathways made me realise that university, especially such a good one as Bristol, wasn’t unreachable,” she says. “Law is so competitive I don’t think I’d have had the confidence in myself to aim for it.”

 Both she and Sam are now Pathways mentors and Alex has also applied for the Pathways Plus scheme, which helps with work experience and subsidises law events.

Amber, meanwhile, is taking a gap year while studying for Classics A Level and working as a volunteer at Amnesty International. “While on the Pathways programme, I became chair of my college’s Amnesty International group, which sparked my interest in human rights activism, and I now want to study law more than anything.


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