Osborne Clarke in link-up with Bristol academy to bridge gap between school and legal profession

October 15, 2021

A flagship programme to provide long-term skills and employability support to schools with high levels of disadvantage in Bristol has been launched by international law firm Osborne Clarke.

The Bridge project is being run by Osborne Clarke in partnership with Visionpath, an organisation that aims to radically improve the career prospects and life chances of young people. 

Osborne Clarke has its roots are in Bristol, where it was founded in 1748, and employs around 600 people in the city.

The Bridge will be introduced as a long-term partnership with Bristol’s Merchants’ Academy in Withywood, pictured, along schools in Reading and London, where the firm also has offices.

It is designed to create a bridge between education and employment for young people from under-represented backgrounds.

While Osborne Clarke has previously held reading schemes and actively supported a range of educational organisations, this is its first holistic schools partnership programme that aims to facilitate access to the legal profession and law firms.

The programme comprises a range of tailored sessions including: 

  • Career insight – volunteers share their career journeys (from school to present day) to inspire students for their future
  • Diversity events – such as ‘women in law’ sessions to inspire female students to consider a career in law
  • Sector insight – interactive sessions for students to learn about the variety of opportunity in the legal sector, including fee-earning and non-legal pathways
  • Apprenticeship engagement – workshops and programmes to unlock non-university routes into law
  • Interview, CV and UCAS support – online surgeries with Osborne Clarke’s volunteers providing help and guidance for students to make the right impressions
  • One-to-one mentoring – creating relationships between Osborne Clarke mentors and students in need of more direct support to navigate their future choices.

Visionpath founder Patrick Philpott said: “With The Bridge, we have a great opportunity to make a massive impact on the future prospects of young people in our communities. 

“Research has shown just four interactions with an employer during secondary school can drastically improve a young person’s opportunity to succeed.

“The type of sessions and experiences Osborne Clarke is creating through The Bridge will offer exactly the sort of experience and impact that will make a difference for young people.

“We’ve chosen our three schools because they have disproportionate levels of disadvantage relative to the communities they are in, compared with national and local benchmarking data.

“This approach ensures we target our efforts where we can make the biggest impact with those who need our support most.”

Osborne Clarke head of inclusion and corporate responsibility Bola Gibson, pictured, added: “It’s really important to us that we make an impact in the communities in which we work. The Bridge is a long-term commitment to these schools, their students and our people to help prepare the next generation to thrive.”

Osborne Clarke has a long-standing commitment to advancing social diversity in the legal sector.

In 2014 its UK managing partner Ray Berg was one of the first law firm leaders to engage the Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP) charity, which brings together businesses committed to supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a career, particularly in the legal and finance fields.

The firm works with SMBP to provide an insight into careers in law, and over the past three years has hosted 30 students from less advantaged backgrounds for work experience programmes.

More recently, Ray joined the Employers Social Mobility Alliance, which aims to promote collaboration between employers, the state and third sector to address the issues faced by those from low-income backgrounds entering the workforce.

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