22 July 2014

Burges Salmon has once again opened access to the legal profession as part of its social mobility agenda with two one-week work experience programmes entitled Bright Sparks.

Launched last year, the programme is aimed at students aged 15 to 17 and was specifically designed by our Corporate Responsibility and HR teams to fit with PRIME's criteria.

PRIME, the work experience commitment from the legal profession, was established through the collective view that an industry standard was required to ensure fair access to quality work experience for school-age students across the UK. Through PRIME, Burges Salmon is committed to providing work experience placements for students who would be the first generation in their family to attend university and/or receiving free school meals, in order to give them hands on experience of working in a large legal practice.

Of the 24 students taken on each year, the firm commits that 12 will meet the PRIME criteria. Now in its second year, the Bright Sparks training weeks ended on Friday 11 July.

Bright Sparks has been specifically designed for students by various members of the Burges Salmon HR team. The Year 10 to Year 13 students come from a variety of schools and spend their respective weeks working on presentations, participating in workshops and generally learning about the day-to-day office life of a busy law firm.

Students are able to gain a real insight into the role of a lawyer through shadowing sessions and engage with other business functions such as IT, Human Resources, Marketing and Business Development, highlighting the many different career paths that are available. The students also worked on a group project all week, which consisted of providing 10 recommendations to Bristol 2015 on how to engage with Bristol’s diverse communities and make Bristol's year as European Green Capital informative and engaging for young people and also ideas as to how to share best practice in sustainable and enjoyable urban living with other cities in Europe. The week culminated with the students presenting their group project in two teams in front of a panel and an audience comprising parents, school work experience co-ordinators and head teachers.

Year 12 student Bilal said: 'The Bright Sparks programme has allowed me to make a more informed decision about my pursuit of a career in Law.'

Alice, a Year 12 student, said: 'I feel I have gained the ability to be adaptable to different situations and I feel that my team working has increased dramatically as well as my leadership skills.'

Burges Salmon’s corporate responsibility manager, Catherine Correia, said: “Following the successful launch of Bright Sparks last year, we are delighted to have held the programme once again this year. Our aim was to put together a full and engaging week to ensure that each student gained maximum understanding and learning from the work experience programme. This was a real cross-firm effort with the HR team leading all workshops and other departments helping with shadowing sessions. All of the activities that took place were linked to specific learning aims. Looking at the students' feedback they were really able to get a good feel of how a busy law firm operates, have fun and make some friends too.”

Thomas from Year 10 said: “‘I think that I have gained more self-confidence and an insight into the legal profession.”

One of the parents said: 'My child loved the Bright Sparks week and it has really helped to boost her confidence.'

Burges Salmon senior partner, Alan Barr, said: “When I first started off in the law, there was little if anything available in terms of work experience unless a close relative could 'call in a favour' from someone they knew. Good work experience is invaluable for students and I hope those who took part in our Bright Sparks programme will be able to take what they’ve learnt with them through the rest of school, to university and into the workplace. The legal sector can sometimes be thought of as inaccessible. This is not a positive view for the industry and, through our PRIME commitments, we are working hard to ensure that we open up the law to as wide a group of young people as possible.

“These students have done fantastically well during the week and should be very proud of both what they’ve achieved and the excellent group presentations that they delivered to our panel.”

After another successful year of Bright Sparks, Burges Salmon will continue to provide this work experience programme along with its other programmes aimed at university students.

Key contact

Sarah Hamnett

Sarah Hamnett Corporate Responsibility Specialist

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