UWE Bristol and local law firms launch talent collaboration programme

22 January 2024

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The interior of Osbourne Clarke's offices, an open spiral staircase leading to open plan offices
The offices of Osborne Clarke, the lead law firm in UWE Futures

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), in collaboration with leading Bristol law firms Osborne Clarke, Burges Salmon, Clarke Willmott and Simmons & Simmons, has launched UWE Futures, a legal services work experience and mentoring programme for final year undergraduate Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students from low income backgrounds, studying at UWE Bristol.

The pilot programme has been designed to directly help students who typically find it challenging to enter the legal and professional services market and to increase representation in the Bristol legal sector.

Students will participate in a paid one-week internship, receive mentoring support for one year, and have the opportunity to either secure an extended internship with participating firms or be offered a guaranteed interview for suitable roles.

Sarah Grabham, Deputy Head of UWE Bristol’s College of Business and Law, said:

"UWE Bristol is proud of its diverse student population, but many of our students face additional challenges and hardship during their studies and after graduation. The university is committed to supporting every one of our students through their academic journey to achieve their ambitions and realise their career aspirations.

“UWE Futures is a great opportunity for students in our College of Business and Law to put their academic studies into practice and gain invaluable work experience in leading Bristol law firms. We look forward to working with UWE Futures firms to make a success of this collaboration and to offer as many eligible students as possible the opportunity to be part of the programme.”

Tim Simmonds, Partner and Chief Operating Officer at Osborne Clarke, and an independent member of the University’s board of governors, said:

"We set out our long-term Race Action Plan in March 2023, and a key part of this was prioritising the recruitment of ethnic minority talent. Our existing programmes are predominantly targeted towards solicitors and this opportunity will help us to increase representation across our business services teams and in our regional Bristol office.

"We're committed to supporting the local community by increasing opportunities within the Bristol legal market. Through this regional collaboration, we want to make a real difference to students who are capable and enthusiastic about building careers in professional services.”

Led by Osborne Clarke, the firms, including Burges Salmon and Clarke Willmott, have worked together to provide 16 placements across ten business teams such as HR, Change Management, Marketing and Risk. Simmons & Simmons will support the programme by offering employability skills development to all participants.

Alice Bretherton, Chief People Officer at Burges Salmon, commented:

"It's fantastic that we are collaborating with our peers in Bristol to provide meaningful work experience, workplace skills and mentoring support to UWE Bristol students. The pilot programme will play an important role in tackling the underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities that persists in Bristol's legal sector."

By providing CV-building experiences and ongoing support through mentoring, the programme will support the recruitment efforts of Bristol law firms and create a new talent pipeline.

Daniel Jones, Director of HR at Clarke Willmott said:

"It's crucial that we change the narrative going forward, open the door to historically underrepresented groups and unlock the best talent. The only way we can achieve this is by coming together and collectively investing in initiatives like UWE Futures."

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