Exchange Chambers has launched a new mentoring programme to drive equality and diversity and inspire people from all backgrounds to pursue a career in the law.
The new programme has been developed in association with L8 A Better Place, a community development project based at the Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre in Toxteth, Liverpool. L8 A Better Place works with a range of students and young people from different backgrounds.
Twenty-two barristers from Exchange Chambers are actively involved in the programme, in which they will be assigned a student from the local community. Over an 18-month period the barristers will act as mentors and offer advice, support, and practical experience. This will involve fortnightly contact over email, telephone, face-to-face or Zoom events every three months, and practical experience at Court.
The new mentoring scheme is aimed at students and young people who are interested in pursuing a career in law and would otherwise lack access to the legal profession.
Criminal barrister Stella Hayden has worked closely with L8 A Better Place in developing the mentoring programme.
“As a progressive barristers’ Chambers, we are committed to achieving equality in representation within the legal profession. We want the composition of Chambers to reflect the community we represent.
“The aim of this scheme is to provide students with access to a professional mentor who can advise and support them to develop key skills and areas of knowledge by providing an insight into a career in the law.
“Students will be at different stages in their education – some may not yet have decided on their career path, some may have already made choices about further study and their chosen field.
“The keywords for this scheme are support and sustainability. We want to build long-lasting connections in the community, involving students from an early stage. Whilst we can and will offer insight and experience in the field of law, we want the scheme to go beyond the traditional idea of work experience or a mini-pupillage.
“We envision our mentors advising and supporting on a range of issues – job interviews and university applications, for example. The students may be keen to know more about clerking, marketing or about the business side of Chambers. Even if the students do not ultimately pursue a career in law, we want them to have been provided with transferable skills and confidence in their future.”
Said Joe Ramsden, Community Engagement Worker at L8 A Better Place:
“People from global majority communities have historically found it more difficult to break into certain careers in the UK than their white counterparts, and law is one of them.
“Over the last few months, incidents like the murder of George Floyd in the States have reverberated across the world and focused attention on the systemic inequalities that exist in our own society.
“This is why the Exchange Chambers mentoring scheme is important.
“It is changing the prospects of over a dozen incredibly talented students and pupils from L8, and it is also addressing the fundamental inequality of opportunity typically available to Black and Asian people in the UK.
“It’s when large, successful organisations like Exchange Chambers, step up to the plate that we will start to see positive changes in our society.”
Kobie Eyo-Hudson is currently undertaking his Legal Practice Course at Liverpool John Moores University while being mentored on the Exchange Chambers programme.
“Not everyone who comes from a disadvantaged background has to become a product of their environment,” said Kobie. “This new programme will open so many doors and create so many opportunities.”
Fellow mentee, first year law student at the University of Liverpool, Rhea Opomu, echoed Kobie’s views.
“I’m thrilled to be part of this programme,” said Rhea. “It will inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to consider a career in the law.”