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International law firm Herbert Smith Freehills has been ranked as one of the top 50 employers in the Social Mobility Employer Index 2018.

The Index is a joint initiative between the Social Mobility Foundation and Social Mobility Commission, in partnership with the City of London Corporation. It ranks Britain’s employers for the first time on the actions they are taking to ensure they are open to accessing and progressing talent from all backgrounds and showcases progress towards improving social mobility in the workplace.

The aim of the Index is to encourage firms to share their initiatives and progress in becoming more inclusive employers and to reveal which sectors and companies are taking the issue of social mobility most seriously.

Herbert Smith Freehills has been ranked 15th in the Index for the work it has taken to tackle this and enable those from lower socio-economic backgrounds to succeed. This marks the second consecutive year Herbert Smith Freehills have been recognized as one of UK’s leading firms. The firm has jumped 10 places in the 2018 index – last year we were ranked 25th.

Measures taken by the firm to improve social mobility include:

  • Work experience and employability through the Networked Scholarship Scheme, PRIME, CV Workshops, The Princes Trust, Sussex University First-Generation Scholars and City Horizons Programme;
  • Academic attainment and the life chances of young people in schools local to the firm's offices through buddy reading schemes and a chess clubs; and
  • Access and opportunities for diverse talent through its Rare Discuss programme; Pure Potential and Contextual Data Recruitment.

Ian Cox, Regional Managing Partner, UK, US & EMEA , said:

"Our firm is dedicated to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to get in and get on in the workplace, regardless of their background. We are proud of this work, and of our progress – demonstrated in our inclusion in the 2017 and 2018 UK Social Mobility Employer Index."

David Johnston, Chief Executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, said:

“We have been very impressed by the efforts employers are making to ensure their organisation is open to talent from all backgrounds. We can really see organisations taking a whole host of actions to try and ensure that they have a diverse workforce in terms of socio-economic background as well as in terms of gender and race; they in turn are benefitting from accessing a much wider talent pool than they have traditionally recruited from. All entrants should be praised for broadening their approach.”

Notes for Editors

The Top 50 Social Mobility Employer Index rankings

  1. The Social Mobility Employer Index was developed in consultation with, and following feedback from social mobility experts and major employers. Employers entering the Index did so free of charge and voluntarily. To enter, they had to answer questions about actions they are taking in at least one of the following sections:
  • working with young people - well-evaluated programmes that reach beyond the doorstep of the office to all of the country’s talent, and which provide routes into the employer/profession for those that have the interest and aptitude
  • routes into work - well-structured non-graduate routes that provide genuine parity of esteem and comparable progression to graduate ones
  • attraction - innovative ways of reaching beyond graduates of the usual five to ten universities many top employers focus their efforts on
  • recruitment and selection - evidence that the employer removes hurdles that will disproportionately affect those from lower socio-economic groups and is moving to a system that judges potential rather than past academic performance or polish
  • data collection - rigorous analysis of the profile of the workforce and of measures taken to improve its diversity
  • progression - effective strategies that help those from lower socio-economic groups get on rather than just get in
  • internal/external advocacy - action to get more of their staff involved in efforts to improve social mobility and to get suppliers/peer firms to also take action
  1. The submissions were marked using a strict mark scheme and the list of scores was then benchmarked both within the same sector and across different employment sectors. In targeting sectors that have sometimes been identified as needing to improve their socio-economic diversity, the Index recognises that process often has to be introduced before progress can be made and does not punish employers for starting from a low base, but rather rewards them for taking significant action to improve this. The top 50 are thus those taking the most action on social mobility and not the 50 that are already the most representative of the country at large.
  1. Employers had the option to enter anonymously to receive feedback on their strategies; if they finished in the top 50 they then had the choice of whether to remain anonymous.
  1. This year there was also a voluntary employee survey that employers could participate in, which included 8 questions about the culture of their workplace. 35 employers participated in this and we received 11,359 responses; 5,661 identified themselves as working class and 5,333 as middle class, with 116 identifying themselves as upper class.
  1. 106 employers from 18 different sectors entered the Index in 2018; 38 entered the Index for the first time. Collectively the entrants employ 1.063 million people in the UK.
  1. Both the development of the Index and the benchmarking is supported by an advisory group whose membership has representatives from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, the Bridge Group, Royal Holloway University and Stonewall.
  1. For further information about the Index, please visit

The Social Mobility Foundation

The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) is a charity which aims to make practical improvement in social mobility for young people from low-income backgrounds.

It runs free of charge programmes of mentoring, internships, university application support (including trips to universities and help with personal statements, aptitude tests and interviews) and career and skills workshops to support young people through their sixth-form and university years.

Currently taking on a new cohort of over 1600 young people every year, the SMF has offices in Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle and runs residential programmes for young people from the Isle of Wight to the Western Isles of Scotland across 11 career sectors (Accountancy, Architecture, Banking & Finance, Biology & Chemistry, Business, Engineering & Physics, Law, Media & Communications, Medicine, Politics, and Technology).

Media contact

For further information on this article please contact

Carl Philip Brandgard

Carl Philip Brandgard, Communications Manager