A tale of two cities

Students in Paris and London get a taste of the industry

London and Paris are two of our European offices opening their doors to talented students from disadvantaged areas.

Haggerston School
Haggerston School is located in Hackney, East London, an area that was classified in the 2015 government index of multiple deprivation as the eleventh most deprived borough in England, yet it is only a 10-minute bus ride from the City, one of the wealthiest parts of London. Coupled with the youth unemployment rate in London, it is clear that there is a need for support for young people in the area.

Our 15-year partnership with Haggerston School, which forms a key part of our community investment work, aims to improve students’ aspirations, employability skills, achievement and access to opportunities; increase their understanding of the world of work; and enhance their sense of well-being and confidence. The partnership includes mentoring, work experience, language mentoring, The Lawyers in Schools programme and governance and leadership support.

‘Being partnered with a mentor in year 10 was only the beginning of what would be an amazing journey for me, through my school’s partnership with Freshfields. My work placement at Freshfields later in year 10 really crystallised what profession it was that I wanted to go into – corporate law. Now in year 12 I am studying A-levels in maths, economics, government and politics, and philosophy and ethics, whilst continuing to keep in contact with my mentor. The connections I have made this year through my mentor are helping me make university choices, and I am sure will really enhance my job prospects once I leave university.’ Kayode, year 12.

Freshfields is extremely fortunate in the quality and the strength of its partnership. It has longevity and durability, but also freshness and innovation as each school year we plan together the ways in which we can make a difference to the pupils.

‘What Freshfields provides adds great value to the work we do, and we could not wish for more.’

Jane Keeley
Head Teacher

Jane Keeley, Head Teacher at Haggerston, talks about the benefits of taking this approach. ‘Whether it is through the highly sought-after work experience placements in year 10, or the presentations by volunteers on work-related learning days, or the induction conference for new sixth formers, held at Freshfields, so that they instantly experience some of what is different about the sixth form. What Freshfields provides adds great value to the work we do, and we could not wish for more.’

One of the ways we keep the partnership fresh is by regularly introducing new initiatives. For example, Freshfields has recently introduced a Haggerston/Freshfields scholarship to support students at the school who want to go to university. Shorifa was the first student to be awarded the scholarship.

‘I completed work experience at Freshfields and was mentored by two incredible individuals. Listening to their stories and hearing about their paths to success made me realise with hard work and dedication I can be just as successful. Now I’m at university, after winning the scholarship to help me further my studies.

‘From my interaction with Freshfields, I know that they care about the future of young people and that is something that inspires me. After my degree I hope to pursue a teaching career and I want to apply this understanding and passion to my job.’

‘Freshfields benefits enormously from the partnership,’ says Kate Burns, Haggerston governor and former head of central team projects at Freshfields. ‘In return for volunteering with Haggerston our people have broadened their skills and gained a huge amount of personal satisfaction.’

The Paul Verlaine School
Since 2008, Freshfields’ Paris office has helped pupils from Paul Verlaine, a secondary school in a disadvantaged suburb of Paris, get an insight into the French legal profession.

In one of the Paris office’s flagship community investment programmes, every year a group of 14- and 15-year-olds spend a day in our office finding out how a law firm works. The youngsters also visit the Palais de Justice (Paris Courts of Justice), backdrop to some of France’s most famous legal proceedings. A select few then return to the Paris office for a longer work experience placement of one or two weeks.

‘The social background of many pupils does not give them the opportunity to broaden their horizons or to see that jobs outside the manual labour or sales sectors are open to them.’

Jean-Pierre Bonin
Retired Head Teacher

Twenty pupils made the trip to the Palais de Justice in 2016 and were accompanied by Senior Dispute Resolution Associate Samuel Sauphanor, who has been involved every year since 2009. ‘It’s a great opportunity to spend some time with these motivated children and do something completely different,’ he said. ‘It’s also a concrete means for us to show them how the legal profession works and see some of its members in action. The kids love sitting in on hearings.’

This year’s participants included 16-year-olds Jawed and Anthony. Both spent a week with business services volunteers and had the opportunity to speak to associates and trainees about their legal training.

The initiative has real benefits for Paul Verlaine pupils, says Jean-Pierre Bonin, a retired head teacher. ‘The partnership with Freshfields has made our pupils realise that anything is possible if we have the courage to venture beyond the limits of our local area. The social background of many pupils does not give them the opportunity to widen their horizons or to see that jobs outside the manual labour or sales sectors are open to them. Working alongside Freshfields staff has had a huge impact on them and led a certain number to consider a career in the legal sector.’

Freshfields Corporate Responsibility Executive Molly Slaughter says she is ‘immensely proud’ of the partnership and what it has achieved over the years. ‘By keeping in touch with our work experience alumni, we are able to follow their progression and continue supporting them as they enter the professional world,’ she says. ‘It was heart-warming to hear recently that our first work experience pupil from 2008, Yvan, now aged 24, had landed himself a permanent job, which he is thoroughly enjoying.’

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