ITV launches social mobility scheme with support from magic circle and big four firms

ITV has launched a new initiative which aims to broaden access to the legal and accountancy professions.

The Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP) aims to provide work experience for students from low income backgrounds, as well as mentoring in law and accountancy.

The charity gives students from different schools across the country the chance to spend a day at four different businesses and a day at a professional sports club to expose them to law and accountancy in the context of business.

The SMBP is supported by more than 70 businesses, law firms and accountancy firms including Clifford Chance, Slaughter and May, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Burges Salmon, Osborne Clarke, DLA Piper, PwC, Microsoft, Adidas, Aviva and Barclays.

ITV director of legal Barry Matthews created and now leads the SMBP, which evolved from a similar work placement scheme, the Legal Social Mobility Partnership (LSMP), which started in 2014.

The scheme was relaunched on Tuesday (16 January) at the House of Commons, to reflect its broader focus on accountancy and the appointment of its first full-time staff.

Matthews sought money and resources from the organisations the scheme worked with and 22 pledged their support.

Speaking to Legal Week, Matthews said: “We didn’t have any formal budget or any paid staff. It was largely coming from other resources, with the lion’s share coming from ITV, and some 3,500 hours of volunteered time coming across the whole organisation. The great thing about it was that it was not just the lawyers but [also] those involved in finance, HR and commercial all devoting their time to help deliver the overall scheme.”

ITV general counsel and company secretary Andrew Garard added: “The danger was always to run before we could walk – we trialled it in London and the reception of the scheme exceeded our wildest expectations. After their two-week placement, the young people came out believing that the law was not the preserve of the advantaged, and that with the right help anyone can consider a career in the law.”

The LSMP launched in 2014 on the back of ITV’s relationship with Slaughters. At that time, 20 students went through the programme. In 2017, more than 300 students took part in the programme in locations across London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton and Reading.

The programme also runs workshops to boost participants’ employability, with a focus on written and oral communication, interviewing, influencing, presenting, resilience, negotiation and networking. It also provides virtual coaching from legal professionals, accountants and business professionals who provide advice on the composition of CVs and personal statements and help students to prepare for university and job interviews.

Picture credit: James West