There exists a direct correlation between accessibility and social inequality that often goes unaddressed. In today's episode, special guest Barry Matthews, Director of Legal Affairs at ITV in the UK, joins us to share how he uses social mobility partnerships to help disadvantaged students gain work experience and access to the legal profession.
"One of the key things is we're not simply ticking a box by working with kids from disadvantaged backgrounds; we're finding the kids that have the ability to practise and solicit in the future." — Barry Matthews, Director of Legal Affairs, ITV
- Gowling WLG's diversity and inclusion initative
- Diversonomics | Season 1 Episode 1 - Why your firm needs a diversity & inclusion initiative
- Diversonomics | Season 1 Episode 2 - Tackling LGBT inclusion in the workplace
- Diversonomics | Season 1 Episode 3 - Fostering inclusion in a global firm
- Diversonomics | Season 1 Episode 4 - Overcoming bias in the legal profession
- Diversonomics | Season 1 Episode 5 - Building a better workforce through inclusive recruitment
- Diversonomics | Season 1 Episode 6 - Why your firm should undergo unconscious bias training
- Diversonomics | Season 2 Episode 1 - Coming attractions: A sneak peek at season 2 of Diversonomics training
Roberto Aburto is an associate in Gowling WLG's Ottawa office, practising in municipal law and civil litigation, with a focus on real estate disputes, land use planning law and commercial litigation.
He is also an active member in the swimming and lifesaving community, serving on the board of directors for the Lifesaving Society (Ontario Branch) as the corporate secretary/legal adviser, and on the Lifesaving Society (National Branch) National Team Selection Committee for Lifesaving Sport.
He is also co-chair of Gowling WLG's Diversity and Inclusion Council and is committed to promoting these principles.
Sarah Willis is an associate in Gowling WLG's Ottawa office, practising in the areas of commercial and civil litigation, and medical defence law. Sarah also has ecommercial and civil litigation experience in a variety of areas, including contractual and construction law disputes, tort actions, and small claims court claims. While in law school, Sarah was an oralist in the 2013 Willms and Shier Environmental Law Moot competition, sat as an executive on the Women and Law Association, and was the vice-president of the class of 2013 council in her final year.
Director of Legal Affairs and Third Party Sales at ITV in the UK.
To learn more about Barry, connect with him on LinkedIn.
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Roberto: Welcome to Diversonomics. The podcast about diversity and inclusion from Glowing WLG. I am your co-host, Roberto Aburto, practicing in municipal law.
Sarah: And I'm your co-host, Sarah Willis, practicing in commercial litigation and professional liability. We are absolutely thrilled to welcome today, Barry Matthews, who is the Director of Legal Affairs and Third Party Sales at ITV in the UK. Barry's one of the leaders of the Legal Social Mobility Partnership, "LSMP", which is a volunteer lead organization, dedicated to broadening access to the solicitor profession in the UK, by providing opportunities to young people who would not otherwise have had access to the legal world. We're delighted to welcome Barry and we look very forward to discussing this fantastic and much needed initiative with him today. Welcome Barry.
Barry: Hi. Lovely to be here. Thank you for inviting me on.
Roberto: Barry, thanks so much for taking the time. I know Lorna Gavin, that we had on last season, she was in Canada recently as we continue to share our diversity initiatives with our UK friends at Gowling WLG. I had a chance to hear a bit about this initiative from you recently. I understand that the partnership was awarded the CSR Program of the Year in 2016 through the Legal Business Awards. Congratulations for that.
Barry: Thank you very much.
Roberto: Can you please tell our listeners a little bit about the LSMP and its mandate?
Barry: Sure. The Legal Social Mobility Partnership was devised in 2014. It came off the back of a scheme that I created with Slaughter and May in 2013. There was already a long history of private practice law firms offering a weeks' worth of work experience for kids who wouldn't necessarily have the ability to access our world, and broadly that had been done under the banner of an organization called PRIME. PRIME was an initiative set up by David Morley, probably 5 or 6 years back. What PRIME effectively is is a set of standards. Those standards stipulate that x number of places will be devoted to students from disadvantaged backgrounds when it comes to work experience. When those kids come on work experience they give them quality tasks to do. They're not simply sat there watching people work. That work experience will last at least a week and then beyond that there's an after care. Broadly, some mentoring scheme or something like that. Again, Slaughter and May had signed up that commitment and off the back of that they got the ability to demystifying PRIME certified schemes. PRIME is like a giant monarch. Slaughter and May have a scheme that was running in a school in North London. We, as an in house legal team, I wanted to get ourselves involved in something similar but what comes up for many in house counsel is that we don't have a dedicated CSR focused on legal work experience. When I spoke to our CSR guys here they said, "Barry, we've got 5,000 people in our organization. We're a team of 6. It sounds like an amazing idea except that we don't have the resource to commit to developing something similar in that. Maybe you need to sign up to PRIME." This got me thinking, "Well, look, Slaughter and May are investing the time and working with a school and they've gone through a process selecting students that are sufficiently bright to have a career in law." I think one of the key things of all these schemes, we're not simply ticking a box by working with kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, we're finding the kids that have the ability to practice and solicit in the future. Slaughter and May have gone through that process. They've identified the starting point with these kids and equally their capability and they're already working with them. I said, "Look, let's piggy back on that existing infrastructure and we can provide them with something else. We can give them a view from the bridge, from an in house counsel's points of view." We provided 3 additional days of the week that these students were already engaged in and we have a really positive experience from that. There was five kids. It isn't going to change the world but it was definitely something which worked. Which got me to thinking that actually there's something in this because we can't be the only in house counsel wrestling with this issue. That we've got the desire but we don't have the infrastructure to participate in these sorts of schemes.
So I started to talk to some of our other panel firms and some other in house firms, counsel, contacts and in 2014 the LSMP was born. We brought on board Arnold & Porter. We brought on board Olswang. We brought on board Bird & Bird. With those law firms we cottoned them up clients. Bird & Bird had Yahoo. Microsoft with Olswang and Arnold & Porter brought Viacom. The idea being is that with that buddying up between client and law firm each of those individual clients produced a day's work of content for work insight and skills training. The one thing we were very keen to ensure that when the students came to us, as in house counsel, they saw the law in practice. It wasn't simply a bunch of people standing at the front telling these students what we did for a living, how we got there. It was actually immersing themselves in our world. So in the ITV day the whole focus was around a mock program negotiation exercise. We set one group of students up to be the lawyers for the broadcaster. We set up one group of students up to be the lawyer, legal counsel, for the talent, the actors and actresses that we engage in, engage with on a daily basis, and we taught them hypothetical tasks based around the program that we were looking to commission. We then coached the students on negotiating tactics and strategies and then set them off on that negotiation and we then fed back to them what they did and didn't do well. But equally within giving them some insight into real life situations which occurred.
When they walked away from the day at ITV they knew what a lawyer at ITV did, on a day to day basis, in that particular aspect of our work. That worked great. Back on their day was focused around organizing the MTV Europe Music Awards and so the students were put in the position of being the CEO, the FD, the JC and other students were in the role of being participants, whether they're the artists right through to the logistical side of things in terms of setting up, the staging and the sound, etcetera, etcetera, the broadcast lights and by the end of the day they had to come up with a plan and negotiate their way through the various contractual arrangements which bring together the end. The great thing for us was that these students were walking away from this week, not only did they see negotiations in context, they also saw it in a massive way, they walked away with four core blue chip businesses on their CV's. Importantly, four sets of experiences which they can refer to when they want to interview for seeing the diversity of apprenticeship or later on for a training contract. Whereby they could draw upon those experiences when they're asked these classic competency based questions, say, show me a time and you show me the ship, working through and you come together as a team to solve a problem. Finally, they had something which had a warp around of wonderful brand attached to it to populate those answers. I personally come from a very similar background to what the students we work with and for ... rugby, that was always my go to, when it came to those sorts of questions. I think with this scheme, in my mind, it was always about how can I give kids like me, obviously I'm quite a bit old now, my rugby. I saw the way in which we approached this and it was accessible for in house counsel because they didn't have to produce a day, so it was going to be high quality, and focus on that. And equally they were being supported by their panel firms so it became a ... for the panel firm. All had this happy coincidence of stitching together those 4 days. Remember the student walks away with 4 amazing experiences from the ... perspective and the antidote perspective but equally the panel firm and the client were much closer. Over the period of 3 or 4 months of planning they require a lot of interaction between the teams and I will say, in terms of our funding model, far better to spend money on this scheme then spending money by putting your car behind the door. You're going to get far greater engagement, more client and understanding by working together on a bally's rig proposal than simply getting drunk in a bar on a Friday night.
You're probably going to ask the question, "What happens on the fifth day?" Well, the fifth day, going back to my rugby, I learned a lot through playing semi-pro, not the least the concept of resilience and psychology and goal achievement and one of my good friends is CEO of Harvard's Rugby Club, I played with him a long time ago. I spoke to him about accessing his sports psychologists to create a day long program where we took all the models that we utilize daily in a lot of professional sports and apply those models, the concepts of a career and all, and actually there's quite a high degree of leader cross. Not least because there's a number of not actually going to suffer on the challenge of being a qualified lawyer in the UK. It's highly competitive. We're all very, very fortunate to have experienced some form of rejection at some stage at your career before qualification. All the kind of key towards resilience when we're coming back from long term injury or you're looking to progress beyond your club sights to represent your country, all of the tools that you're taught to build, to never become a career as a professional rugby player or professional footballer, or whatever it may be, in that arena. Those tools are equally applicable. We took those tools and we reshaped them so they're accessible to 17 year olds and we also looked at the whole concept of goal achievement. Again, how you will ... all about worlds but broadly speaking, sport was a pyramidical model whereby you have your goal at the top of the pyramid and you worked backwards until you get to the base of the pyramid and you're down to what you're reaching on Monday at 11:00 as part of your overall nutrition fund, side by side with your exercise, conditioning plan, which when you aggravate all those things to get there, equals success. Which is breaking into the first tier.
That's probably the longest monologue you're going to get from me.
Barry: I hope you like. You did ask the question.
Roberto: No, it was great. It's great to see the partnership between big law and big corporate clients in the UK. Just for our listenership can you just explain what CSR is?
Barry: CSR is Corporate Social Responsibility. It can be a ... corporate route responsibility. In the UK, generally speaking, ... organizations, be their law firms or companies, will have a dedicated team of individuals who are looking to ensure that the business is trading and upgrading in a responsible manner. To go the whole gamut of volunteering to ensuring diversity inclusion through to the environmental piece, ensuring that we are a responsible business when it comes to environmental issues. We have 6 people in and we'll actually be focused on that and obviously the likes of Gowling will subdivide CSR as a concept in a different pocket, same idea with Lorna. To give a nod to you guys at Gowlings, you guys have been an amazing support to the LSMP. We started in 2014 with 20 students in London, the model I just described, we now sit here today in 2017 with over 300 students across 7 different cities in towns in the UK. One of the cornerstone cities in our first growth spurt was Birmingham and Gowlings stepped up to run that for us. I'm incredibly grateful to Laura and Lorna and Amy and the team there for being so supportive in doing a lot of the hearty hearts. The whole model is really dependent upon entities within the various cities owning it. We've created a form up Bible and a set of materials and lawyers within my team acted as effective consultants to entities coming onto the scheme but it's very much a decentralized model to keep costs down. Gowling has stepped up and they're the cluster heads of Birmingham and these guys have brought in Max Sebastian Martin. We've brought in Barclays. Together we've brought in Deutsch. These are kind of stellar names. ITV, ourselves obviously, both in Birmingham as well. We brought Wasps Berkeley Club, kindly sitting top of the premiership, and that's through the network contacts that we all sat down and worked out what we had and aggregated that together so the students in Birmingham can have an absolute stellar experience. What I wanted to make sure is that once we got outside the capital the brand names weren't diminished. We were still top national recognizable brand names which students can refer to on their CV's. I think, you know, ... team can be proud in that regard.
Sarah: That's fantastic. I guess having those big brand names and the recognizable team names, it would get students excited and interested in the initiative, initially even to just decide to participate. As Roberto and I were talking about this neither of us really knew any lawyers or had any exposure to the legal profession prior to going to law school. I definitely felt a bit like a fish out of water. This type of initiative is great in terms of exposing young people, both to the idea of the opportunities that would be available, but also just to the type of people that would be practicing in that area. I know it's grown substantially over the last couple of years, where do you see this initiative going in the future? Do you think it will continue to grow or do you see it expanding to different types of initiatives?
Barry: Just picking on one point you make, and I'm a very similar situation to you guys, in terms of not having any exposure to lawyers. My father is a mechanic and my mother was a teaching assistant. Our world wasn't populated by professionals. I think with the scheme it's really important that they do get exposure and they familiarize themselves in our world so they don't self-select themselves out to the career, nor simply that they don't think that people like them could become lawyers, because they don't know anybody who is a lawyer.
The benefit of the scheme is that they get the 4 different places of business and 4 different sets of lawyers so they can't just write off one experience as being a one off. Those people at Gowlings say, or those people at ITV, they were great but everyone else must be weirdos or aliens. The fact that they've met so many different solicitors, in private practice and in house, should give them a gauge that actually they're all pretty normal people. Well, everything's relative I guess. It gives them that kind of concept that there's not a one off because I've met lots of different people in different contexts and actually they're all pretty decent people. They're hardworking, they're bright but I think there's a place for me here.
Sarah: Yup. That's fantastic.
Barry: Within terms of your game, back to your question on growth, where do we see next? I think this model has proven that it can grow. Commoditize in the way which we do things, is effectively a franchise model. I think for it to grow any further we need to professionalize it. Ultimately right now, the level as it stands, doesn't have to pay for its staff, doesn't have a budget, but it has 70 organizations all volunteering their time. The lawyers within my teams at ITV dedicating and volunteering their time to coordinating with the support of the likes of Gowlings or Spires with other law firms and partners who have stepped up to be cluster heads in the city. I think the cluster head model will continue but I think in terms of centralized services we're going to need to kind of lead that into something where we have secure funding. With that regard we are in some very exciting preliminary talks with the accountants of our potentially expanding this model to fuse access to the world of law and accountancy. When we looked at the model and we had the chat with one of the big 4 it's quite clear that what we're doing is we're looking at business through the lens of law with the in house team and the private practice team, working in partnerships to deliver those experiences. But what's to say we couldn't just add in the finance department plus essentially auditors and give students access to another profession at the same time. It doesn't require any great ... With the business games I've described remain the same we simply have the layer of, actually before you even get to this stage whereby you're negotiating agreement, how're you working out the budgets, how're you then recognizing this revenue and the accounts and the PR and the like? So that's why the wraparound of accountancy is quite an easy play. For me, that's where I think we'd go to next. The LSMP can move to be the social mobility business partnership whereby some of these haven't been done yet, which you think actually why hasn't it been done because it's actually quite obvious. I think it's only because, historically, in house hasn't played a role in this space. It's mainly been led by private. The fact is once you focus on business there is a natural lead to say we can then bring the professions together through the service providers to support them, be it with such the panel firm. That's where I think the next play is. Like I said, we're having some very exciting conversations.
Roberto: How can lawyers get involved in the program?
Barry: Lawyers get involved by sticking their hands up and saying I want to join. Anyone who wants to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org we would welcome to hear from you. In terms of individual lawyers the program isn't just the week. We have an alumni offering which is three pronged, the core of which is our virtual coaching model. Every student comes in our program has access to a network of solicitors across the UK, they're being coordinated by a charity called Aspiring Solicitors, and students in our scheme can access that group, all 1,500 solicitors to ask questions about their CV's or their personal statements which should really supporting documentation carries for their university applications. Equally, when they go beyond that stage in terms of their application forms, filling those in because in these days they are incredibly voluminous. Plus preparation for interview, whether that be their university interview or, actually laterally, an interview for a training contract which is the final stage beyond qualification for solicitors here in the UK. In terms of individual solicitors we would ask them if they want to get involved in the scheme, but their firm themselves can't get involved then have the scopes do it, they can get involved by signing up to be a professional ambassador through Aspiring Solicitors and then being on call to effectively answer those queries. We looked long and hard at our alumni. We considered mentoring. I think mentoring was very, very difficult to get right. Not least because it's the time an individual needs to commit to ensure that it's a meaningful relationship. Whereas the virtual coaching model, you're simply asking a solicitor on probably 4 or 5 occasions each year, we'll call upon you to donate effectively an hour or 2 hours your time to assist a young person in the next step in their career. That's something which as a solicitor, you know we all have busy lives, is doable as opposed to saying, "Look, over a 12 month period can you dedicate 2 hours every month to discuss the career path with this individual?" Mentoring is great if you can make it work but it's incredibly hard to make it sustainable. The virtual coaching model, I think is great, and it's a very easy way for solicitors who listen to this get involved. But equally, you guys in Canada, I think this model has the ability to travel so that any firms out there, or in house counsel, listening to this who want to replicate the model, everything we've created we'll gladly give to you. There is no property and social benefit. I think that anybody who feels that they need to start with something in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter, we'll be happy to give everything across and help you make it a reality.
Roberto: Barry, we heard you loud and clear on that one, you presented to us. Great to hear that sort of offer, broadly. We're exploring it. It's such a great initiative. The results of 300 people, it just seems to mammoth, but with everything in terms of corporate social responsibility it's one inch at a time. So certainly something we're looking at to see if there's a way to implement something similar. It is a truly great initiative. Really great that you spread that model and hopefully it can spread internationally, to Canada and beyond. Thank you very much for taking the time for being with us today, Barry.
Barry: No problem at all. It was an absolute pleasure and, again, a big thank you to you guys.
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