Report accuses law and accountancy firms of recruiting with “poshness test”

Young people who do not come from a privileged background are being denied the opportunity to work within ‘elite’ law and accountancy firms, according to an official report.

Law firms are being accused of imposing a ‘‘poshness test’’ that selects those applying for a job at a top firm based upon their socio-economic background.

A study carried out by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission analysed 13 high end law, accountancy and financial services firms. The study found that graduates who attended fee-paying or selective state schools were awarded 70 per cent of new job offers.

‘‘This research shows that young people with working-class backgrounds are being systematically locked out of top jobs,’’ said Alan Milburn, chairman of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

Milburn, who served as an MP for Darlington from 1992 until 2010, claimed that law firms’ trainees are unlike the rest of the population, as they are five times more likely to have attended a fee-paying school.

Within top accountancy firms, as many as 50 per cent of all applicants were educated at a Russel Group university, with 70 per cent of all job offers being awarded to those students.

‘‘Elite firms seem to require applicants to pass a ‘poshness test’ to gain entry. Inevitably that ends up excluding youngsters who have the right sort of grades and abilities but whose parents do not have the right sort of bank balances,’’ continued Milburn.

Another politician shared Milburn’s views upon the recruitment procedures of top firms within London. Both Boris Johnson and the City of London Corporation (CLC) urged for there to be more social mobility within all major firms, and that recruitment policies should be based on ‘‘skills, talent and energy.’’

‘‘I completely agree,’’ commented Johnson. ‘‘I think the answer is to look at what is happening, for instance in London schools where there have been massive improvements in the last 10 or 20 years to make sure that everyone is given a fair crack of whip.’’

The Law Society have already addressed the survey, stating that over 400 law firms have already put pen to paper on its Diversity and Inclusion Charter this year, which is double the amount of companies who did so in 2013.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has also responded to the research, admitting that more needs to be done to bridge the gap between working and upper class recruits.

‘‘We are starting to see a trend among employers in recruiting chartered accountants, which will go some way to address social mobility. Widening access to accountancy is a shared challenge between employers, schools, young people and professional bodies, so we must work together,’’ stated ICAEW director Sharon Spice.