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Our programs

Our Head Start programs support talented young people who face social, economic or cultural barriers to entering and succeeding in the legal profession. We run programs in the UK, Kenya, China, New Zealand, Ireland and Australia.
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We recognise that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. As a world leading law firm, we need lawyers that represent the communities in which we work and operate, to provide the best advice for our clients. For that reason, we believe it's important for us to act on economic exclusion and socioeconomic inequality. Through our flagship social mobility programmes, we play a leading role in advancing social mobility for underrepresented groups by creating pathways into the legal sector. Our programmes are developed and run in partnership with peers, clients, regulators, education partners, charities and schools.

Our Head Start programme supports talented young people who are interested in a legal services career, but for social, economic and/or cultural reasons face barriers to entering and succeeding in the profession. Students are recruited from communities that, according to data collected in each region, are less likely to enter and succeed in a professional services career. In the UK, Ireland, China, Kenya and New Zealand we work with students from socially diverse groups, whilst in Australia, we work with students from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities. 

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The long-term aim of Head Start is to increase diversity in the legal profession. The programme helps us to create a better informed and holistic social mobility strategy, and collaborate with peers across the legal sector to ensure the firm, and the wider profession, reflects and represents our communities. We work closely with schools, education providers and professional organisations to identify students who would benefit from accessing opportunities such as mentoring and work placements in the legal sector.

Head Start's objectives are to help students:

  • gain a deeper understanding of the legal profession in terms of day-to-day experience and career opportunities available,
  • become better informed about the steps required to enter and succeed in the legal profession,
  • increase motivation and confidence relating to higher education and pursuing opportunities in the legal profession, and
  • increase peer and professional networks.

Students on the programme are known as DLA Piper Scholars. During the programme, all scholars are provided with multiple opportunities for engagement, including work placements, employability skills sessions and mentoring, a dedicated platform providing online resources and an online community. Scholars can access practical support such as goal setting and coaching, support with employment, graduate programmes and university applications, and financial assistance for study-related items such as laptops, internet access, travel, books and business wear.

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Students are recruited onto the programme using evidence-based social equality criteria. Head Start aims to support these students to increase confidence, build networks and gain knowledge through a mixture of internships, skills training and mentoring. The duration of the programme can range from 18 months to five years, depending on the location.
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Head Start UK

Head Start UK provides a holistic support to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, to help them define their goals and find a path into the legal sector. Individualised support such as financial assistance, mentoring, high quality work placements and other practical support is provided to guide Scholars from secondary school, through to higher education and employment.  The programme aims to increase access to, and diversity within, the legal profession.  

The programme runs for a period of 3 years, after which student can join the Head Start Alumni group where they can continue to access support and mentoring for a further two years.

 We work with several organisations (the Sutton Trust, PRIME, REACH and the Social Mobility Business Partnership) to ensure students can access to a wide range of opportunities to develop skills, confidence, and grow their peer and professional networks.  

DLA Piper’s Early Careers and Talent Acquisition teams deliver regular webinars and Q&A sessions for Scholars, ensuring candidates have a sound understanding of recruitment processes and career opportunities within the professional services sector.

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More about Head Start UK

In England, candidates are recruited through our partnership with the Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Law programme. Applications for the Pathways to Law programme open in September each year, candidates should indicate a preference to join DLA Piper for their work placement in order to apply for the Head Start programme.  

Applications for the Pathways to Law programme open in September.

In Scotland, candidates are recruited through our partnership with REACH, and  relationships with local schools. To apply for the programme, students must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Attend, and have always attended, a state-funded, non-fee-paying school/college
  • Be in Year 12/S5 at the start of the programme (this may be considered on a case to case basis)
  • Have a keen interest in pursuing a career in the legal profession

In addition, we are looking for students who:

  • Have achieved National 5 A -B (please note this can be considered against individual circumstances)
  • Would be the first generation in their family to attend university
  • Have been in receipt of Free School Meals whilst at secondary school
  • Have attended schools with a lower than average progression to higher education, or a higher than average proportion of students who qualify for Free School Meals
  • Live in a SIMD decile 1-4 (https://simd.scot/) (Scotland only)
  • Are estranged from family and living without family support
  • Are a carer (provide unpaid care)
  • Have parent(s)/guardian(s) who qualify for means-tested benefits
  • Have been looked after or in care
  • Have come to the UK as a refugee or asylum seeker

At Head Start UK we’re proud of the relationships we’ve built with our clients. Collaborating with a variety businesses and organisations is crucial in helping students to experience and understand the different roles and career paths available to them. It gives our Scholars the chance to broaden their professional networks while developing important interpersonal and employability skills.

One partnership that’s evolved over the years is with our client HSBC. We’ve used their financial expertise to develop a series of webinars and online activities to support young people at various stages of their academic and professional careers – covering topics like student loans and budgeting.

Volunteers from HSBC also work with us on a variety of events throughout the year. They’ve participated in employability workshops in our offices across the UK, co-hosted a careers insight day as part of the Social Mobility Business Partnership and joined us at networking events to celebrate Scholars’ achievements.

We work with a range of clients including Aviva, Sodexo, NatWest who have participated in online and in person events, and are always keen to discuss future opportunities.

Head Start Africa Academy

Head Start in Africa aims to provide life-changing opportunities for talented young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those living in marginalised communities. The program helps students to build confidence, create networks and gain knowledge.

Head Start Kenya, our pilot program in Africa, is supporting 20 students from six universities in Kenya. The long-term aim of Head Start Kenya is to increase socioeconomic diversity in the legal profession, and ensure our firm and profession reflects our communities. Head Start Kenya, part of the global Head Start program, is a joint initiative of DLA Piper and IKM Foundation.

The program will be rolled out in three other countries in the DLA Piper Africa network.