1. What is PRIME?
PRIME is a commitment by the legal sector to provide fair access to quality work experience for students from less privileged backgrounds. It will underpin the work experience programmes which law firms run and ensure they meet minimum standards in relation to reaching the right people and providing a high quality experience.
2. Why are you doing it?
Quality work experience is an essential first step for school age students if they are to be inspired to consider a career in law or other professions which work in the legal sector. Students from privileged backgrounds are likely to be able to access informal work experience opportunities more easily than those from less privileged backgrounds. This means that talented and motivated students from less privileged backgrounds are potentially missing out on opportunities to access the legal and other professions.
If the legal profession in particular is to achieve fairer access, it is important that as many law firms as possible commit to provide quality work experience conforming to certain principles and to make such work experience accessible to as many individuals as we can, particularly those who would not otherwise easily gain access to it.
3. So is it a work experience programme?
PRIME is not a work experience programme in itself. Law firms who have signed up to PRIME are making a commitment to run work experience schemes which meet minimum standards. These minimum standards ensure access to quality work experience for those from less privileged backgrounds.
4. How is it different to what already goes on?
Individually, law firms already do much to improve access to the professions for students from less privileged backgrounds. These generally take the form of work experience programmes which can vary in scale and scope across the country. PRIME is about underpinning these work experience programmes with standards which ensure fair access to quality work experience for those from less privileged backgrounds.
5. What are the minimum standards?
These are detailed in the wording of the PRIME commitment but they generally deal with what constitutes “work experience” and who it should be for.
- 'Work experience' must include at least 30-35 hours per place and a commitment to developing key business and personal skills in areas such as oral and written presentation, networking and negotiation. Firms must offer a way to maintain contact after work experience has ended as well as provide financial assistance during the programme.
- Firms must provide a number of work experience places that is not less than 50% of the number of training contracts offered each year. The target for the profession is to provide 2,500 places by 2015, although firms who have already signed up must achieve their own individual target by July 2013.
Participants should confirm that they:
- attend a state (non-fee paying) school; and
- are school age students in either Year 9 to Year 13 in England and Wales, S2 to S6 in Scotland, or Year 3 to 5, or Lower and Upper Sixth in Northern Ireland; and
- are or have been eligible for free school meals (or where this information is difficult or sensitive to obtain, the participant attends a school that is significantly above the regional average in terms of number of students eligible for free school meals); or
- would be of the first generation in their immediate family to attend university.
6. Will having lots of work experience students in our office cause a disturbance?
Signatories of PRIME commit to provide a number of work experience places in each academic year which is not less than 50% of the number of training contract places that that firm offers every calendar year. The first academic year in which this will be measured is the academic year 2012/13. Therefore the number of students you have in your office over the period of an academic year will depend on the number of training contracts you offer each year. Work experience placements can be staggered and do not have to all be offered at the same time.
The Founding Firms are willing to share ideas and information to help firms develop their programmes in such a way so as not to affect the day-to-day running of the firm.
7. How much work is involved in setting up a PRIME programme?
This will depend on what you already do. Existing programmes will have to fit the PRIME criteria if they are to count towards a firm's target figure but you may prefer to set up a new programme. This will take time and resource but the Founding Firms are willing to share ideas and information to help firms develop their programmes including ways to best use internal resources to help manage costs.
8. How much does it cost to join and to run a programme?
The cost of running a programme will depend on the size and the scope of any programme you may choose to run in order to meet the PRIME commitments.
Firms running PRIME programmes are committed to support participants by providing financial assistance to ensure they can attend. As a minimum, firms must provide refreshments and reimburse reasonable travel expenses.
You may wish to work with a third party organisation to help you run a programme.
Firms should also think about how they can work with existing suppliers who may be willing to provide goods and services on a pro bono basis.
The cost of staff time should be considered and will depend on the size and scope of any programme you may choose to run in order to meet the PRIME commitments.
9. Can firms 'team up' to put on joint programmes?
Yes but all firms will have their own individual target figures - any two firms will have target figures for their firm as part of their commitment. For smaller firms it might make sense to pool resources with another firm in order to help you both reach your target figures.
10. How will we recruit work experience students?
For smaller firms it might make sense to partner with a local school or college. For larger firms, or where partnering with a school is not possible, you may consider working with a third party organisation who can help with recruitment. This will depend on the size and scope of any programme you run and the Founding Firms are willing to share ideas with you on how best to recruit students.
11. What about the work experience that we already provide? Do we have to change it?
This can count towards the target number for your firm, as long as students participating and the programme you run meet the criteria set out in the PRIME commitments.
12. Is PRIME just for people who want to be lawyers?
This is about giving students from less privileged backgrounds fair access to quality work experience, not training the lawyers of tomorrow. PRIME endorses work experience which gives students an insight into the range of careers available in the legal sector (for both lawyers and non-lawyers) and the potential routes into those careers, including the relevance of university education.
13. What about client confidentiality?
You may choose to ask work experience participants to sign confidentiality agreements. This will depend on the nature of the work participants will be involved in when doing work experience with you and whether they will have access to sensitive information.
14. What about child protection?
General guidance on this topic suggests that firms should ensure that where groups of students aged under 18 are on office premises, there is at least one person in the room who has had a CRB check. However it is advisable to discuss this more fully with third parties and/or schools who are participating in your work experience programme.
15. What about the informal work experience which we give clients or friends/relatives of partners and employees?
We recognise that these take place. PRIME is about creating an opportunity for all so that people without access to the informal networks from which much work experience flows are able to access high quality work experience too.
16. Is this just a magic circle initiative?
No. This is about the legal sector working together to improve access to the legal and other professions which work in the legal sector. Founding members have been invited because of the substantive part they play in the make up of the legal profession as a whole. Firms covering England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have already signed up and we want more to do so.
17. Can we recruit people who have taken part in PRIME endorsed programmes at our firm or elsewhere?
PRIME is primarily about giving fair access to quality work experience for people from less privileged backgrounds and we hope that it will help to equip students with the skills needed to work in the legal sector, whether as a lawyer or a non-lawyer. While PRIME is not a recruitment tool, we anticipate (and would hope) that the experience gained by students would help them find a job in the business world if they choose to pursue that career path.
18. How will PRIME signatories be held to account?
Monitoring our progress is essential. Signatories to PRIME are committed to provide information on an annual basis in order for us collectively to evaluate our progress against our stated aims. This evaluation will be done by a third party independent of the Founding Firms.
19. What is the best way for us to hit our target? Is there a template for a qualifying programme?
The Founding Firms can provide information which you can use when putting together work experience programme(s) which will help you meet the PRIME targets. However, how you do this will depend somewhat on the size of your firm and what you already do.
20. If we commit, can we change our minds or drop out? E.g. After a year if it doesn't work out for us.
Yes. You can review your membership as a PRIME founding member on an annual basis but we would encourage firms who are struggling to meet the commitments to raise this with the Founding Firms. The bar for qualifying work experience schemes under PRIME has been set deliberately high but the Founding Firms can give assistance regarding how to meet the relevant criteria.
21. How did you arrive at the criteria?
The Founding Firms took advice from the Sutton Trust on the most appropriate criteria to apply to school age students.
22. Have the relevant Law Societies been involved?
PRIME is supported by The Law Societies of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
23. How can my law firm get involved?
You will find all the information you need on this website, including how to sign up.