RBS Legal First Step
As part of its commitment to diversity and inclusion, RBS Legal has successfully run the RBS Legal First Step work experience programme at its Edinburgh and London campuses for two years.
RBS Legal First Step is an intensive one week programme developed to give students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds greater opportunities, experience and contacts to help them consider and pursue a career in law or business. The programme offers students a unique insight into life as an in-house lawyer and, given the variety of roles and functions within RBS, it enables students to explore many options available to them that they may not otherwise have been aware of.
In 2013 11 students aged 16 and 17 from 5 different schools located in Edinburgh and surrounding areas attended RBS in Edinburgh and 15 year 12 students from 6 different schools located in greater London attended RBS in London. In 2014 the programme was expanded and included 16 students from 12 schools in Edinburgh and surrounding areas and 20 students from 7 schools in greater London.
The weeks in London and Edinburgh are activity-packed with students participating in sessions designed to give them an insight into business and develop useful skills to help build confidence and prepare for life in further education and beyond, including debating, preparing and presenting group presentations to a panel of RBS Legal senior managers and work shadowing. Students visit law firms (in 2014 Herbert Smith Freehills and DLA Piper opened their doors to the RBS Legal First Step students in London, and Pinsent Masons did the same in Edinburgh) to see what life is like in private practice and visit the courts and speak to barristers about life in chambers. In Edinburgh students are even able to get a small taste of student life by visiting the law department at the University of Edinburgh.
Throughout the week students meet with internal and external lawyers who discuss their many and diverse pathways into law. Of course the benefit of being an in-house team also means that RBS Legal First Step students have the opportunity to hear about roles outside of the legal department and network with people working in the business teams, including for the students in Edinburgh, visiting RBS’ innovative technology centre to see what a bank might look like in the future.
Following the week at RBS, RBS offers students ongoing mentoring and organises reunion events for the students. In the October 2014 half-term break, students from the 2014 London programme attended an afternoon event at Allen and Overy which included sessions on creating personal impact, school leaver programmes and further networking opportunities for students.
John Collins, director of RBS Legal and Deputy Group General Counsel, said: “RBS Legal has for some time demonstrated its commitment to social inclusion and diversity through a variety of initiatives, including those targeted at offering unique opportunities and support to students in the communities where we operate. We are delighted to continue with this successful RBS Legal First Step programme and are grateful to the University of Edinburgh, The Brokerage, CityLink, our law firms and other partners for the excellent support they provide in helping deliver an experience which is enjoyed by many students and our staff.”
In London, RBS partners with The Brokerage, CityLink who provide support to RBS leading up to and throughout the programme. Deborah Xavier, CEO of The Brokerage CityLink said: “The Brokerage Citylink are delighted to partner with RBS for the 2014 RBS Legal First Step programme to provide another eye opening work experience programme for students from some of the most deprived areas in London. This has always been an exciting and informative week for our students as they are able to meet a variety of employees at RBS Legal and gain invaluable knowledge on many different career paths into Law. It perfectly complements the Brokerage’s overall aim of raising aspirations and providing access to professional careers for young Londoners.”
The University of Edinburgh are supporters of the programme, promoting the opportunity to their eligible “Pathways to the Professions” law students. Lindsay Jack, director of the Student Experience at Edinburgh Law School, said: "Edinburgh Law School is delighted to support this excellent initiative from RBS and to be able to offer another career exploration opportunity to the pupils registered on the University's successful “Pathways to the Professions” (Law) programme. We look forward to welcoming the students into our Old College campus for a visit during their RBS Legal First Step week."
Comments from the 2014 RBS Legal First Step students included:
“an excellent way to experience different aspects of the law and also a great chance to talk to barristers and solicitors about what they do”
“provided me with the skills needed to work in the city and information about different career paths that I can take”
“speed networking helped to boost my confidence and stay in touch with those who inspired me to become a solicitor”
“I have made contacts with mentors and other business people who are keen to help me out in the future. I definitely recommend this.”