Foundation for aspiration
Were you supported financially during your education and training? Are you able to give something to help less privileged aspiring lawyers today? Explaining the aims of the Lawscot Foundation
Education-wise, I was pretty lucky. I went to a state school that routinely performed well in the national league tables, and both my parents had gone on to higher education. If I wanted to go to university, there was never really any question that I could go. Furthermore, I would be supported while I was there. I paid no fees, and had a relatively undemanding part-time job which meant I could prioritise my studies. If I had chosen to do the Diploma after my LLB, I would have been offered funding to cover the vast majority of the fees.
It’s only been in the last few years that I have considered how lucky I really was. While Scottish students don’t pay fees here in Scotland, in truth it was really the financial and family support I received that gave me these opportunities. The lack of fees may well be universal for Scottish students, but we are in no way talking about a level playing field. The Sutton Trust reports that students from the five wealthiest areas of Scotland are four times more likely to go to university than their fellow students in the five least advantaged regions.
Contrast this with the fact there has been a slight increase in the number of students from deprived backgrounds attending university in England since the £9,000 fees have been introduced, and we have to ask ourselves what else is at play. Having zero tuition fees does not seem to be assisting those from less advantaged areas to attend university. There are other barriers in place, big societal and educational barriers that are beyond the remit of the Law Society of Scotland. Yet we can make a difference.
Raising – and realising – aspirations
In less than two years since we first launched our successful Street Law programme in Scotland, we have worked with 45 schools and hundreds of pupils with the aim of improving legal knowledge and raising aspirations. We aim to break down misconceptions about law and the legal profession, and educate young people about the law. Another aim is to perhaps spark a desire in people to study law: some of our most talented future lawyers may be in these classes but may not be able to have the same support that I, and countless of my peers, had. So we need to help where we can. “Raising aspirations” is the phrase of the moment, but it is of limited value unless we can offer any practical help to those talented pupils who cannot afford to study law.
That’s where the Lawscot Foundation comes in. Launched this year, it is here to help pupils who have the drive and talent to become lawyers of the future, but lack the finances to do so. We also want to make joining the legal profession a bit less daunting, by setting up mentoring relationships and offering work shadowing opportunities.
Keen to help?
Our priority is to ensure there is money in the Lawscot Foundation pot to help as many young people as possible. There are lots of demands on your money, and many different worthwhile charities to donate to. So why this one? Well, it’s about giving something back. I felt lucky to be supported during university, and am keen to help someone feel as lucky as I did. If you feel the same, please do think about making a donation – it all really does help.
You can make an individual donation online. Just go to www.lawscotfoundation.org.uk and follow the link to donate. Alternatively you can post a cheque made out to the Law Society of Scotland Education Foundation, c/o the Law Society of Scotland, Atria 1, 144 Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8EX.
As a firm or organisation, we can discuss models for assisting, such as sponsoring a student, or offering work shadowing opportunities. Or perhaps you could think about making it your charity of the year? We would be delighted to discuss any option.
If you are keen to be involved in funding the Lawscot Foundation or as a mentor, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.
I am more than happy to provide additional information on any element of the Lawscot Foundation. Please get in touch. Let’s hope we can help some people be as lucky as many of us were.
Heather McKendrick is head of careers and outreach at the Law Society of Scotland