Law firm Osborne Clarke launches social mobility programme at Merchant’s Academy in Bristol

Bola Gibson, head of inclusion and corporate responsibility at Osborne Clarke
Osbourne Clark Bola Gibson

Bristol-based international legal practice Osborne Clarke has launched a new flagship education and employability programme called The Bridge.

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

Designed to create “The Bridge” between education and employment for young people from under-represented backgrounds, the new programme will involve a long-term partnership with three secondary schools across cities in Osborne Clarke’s UK network: Merchant’s Academy in Bristol, John Madejski Academy in Reading and Skinner’s Academy in London.

Visionpath’s 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.”

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

Bola Gibson, head of inclusion and corporate responsibility at Osborne Clarke, 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, UK managing partner Ray Berg was one of the first law firm leaders to engage the Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP) charity. The SMBP 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 last three years has hosted 30 students from less advantaged backgrounds for work experience programmes.

Mostly 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.