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Foundation for a career

14 August 17

The first successful applicants have been chosen for assistance under the Lawscot Foundation's programme, and some of their background stories are “inspirational”

by Heather McKendrick

When we launched the Lawscot Foundation in 2016 I was warned by a few people that encouraging people to donate would be a tough sell. While it is a worthy charity, there are so many charities in existence, and many people have particular ones they support, often for deeply personal reasons. Supporting a charity that will support young people enter the legal profession is positive, but difficult to compete with the plethora of good causes and charities we hear about each day.

I will now confess I couldn’t help but quietly agree. I have, and always have, completely supported and believed in the work we are doing around social mobility and encouraging fair access to the legal profession, but I did have doubts over whether this could be a charity people could become passionate about supporting.

That was until I read the applications. The young people applying to this are unbelievable. Unbelievable. Some of them have faced unimaginable challenges at such a young age – being in care; being a carer for their parents or siblings; being made homeless; poverty. Yet despite, or perhaps because of this, they are hugely driven – they have worked hard, achieved great exam results and have offers to study the LLB.

Some are inspired to study law as a direct consequence of the challenges they faced in childhood, including frequent visits to court, or the presence of family lawyers and social workers. Rather than let these challenges overcome them, they have used their difficult start in life as a motivator to make changes – to pursue a career in the law and make positive contributions to society in the future.

I should say that for all of the applicants, achieving an offer to study law was the minimum of their achievements – these people have taken part in a huge number of extra-curricular activities, including sport, public speaking, debates, moots, voluntary work and peer reading, often while working part-time to supplement the household income. I think every one of us sitting round the table reading the applications reflected on our own time at high school and felt pretty humbled.

Donate to change a life

Not only did we feel inspired by the applications, we also felt hugely optimistic about the future of the legal profession. We hear a lot about social mobility, and companies and organisations taking steps to address the issues and improve their processes to ensure people from all backgrounds can access the profession. There are some real champions of social mobility in the profession – people who really believe in it and want to do their bit to make things fairer. Considering the applications this week has shown just how vital this is.

Think about the calibre of these young people – if they have achieved all they have in such challenging circumstances, what could they achieve within the positive environment of a profession, with a mentor, training and everything they need to thrive? Think about what they can add to your business. The Lawscot Foundation is going to help ensure these people enter the law degree every year and enhance the profession in the future.

This charity isn’t really about helping people to afford to pursue a career in law – it’s about changing people’s lives. I think reading the applications really made me see this. It’s about providing financial support, yes, but it’s also about showing someone that we support them, believe in them and will continue to do so, along with providing practical help like a mentor and work experience opportunities.

As we are working on a small scale, it also means we can make a meaningful difference to people straight away. If every solicitor donated £10, that means we can assist 40 young people to qualify. I find this incredible. If people, or firms, want to donate more, we can help more people – simple as that. So I suppose what I am saying is, if you can spare any money to make a donation please do – it not only makes a huge difference, but it sends a message to these young people who deserve our admiration and support. The legal profession will be all the richer for it.

To make a donation, apply to be a mentor or to find out about corporate partnership opportunities visit www.lawscotfoundation.org.uk

To donate £10 text LSFD10 £10 to 70070

Heather McKendrick is head of Careers & Outreach at the Law Society of Scotland

 

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