Pupils from schools around the South West are celebrating after graduating from a pioneering programme designed to break down barriers to careers in law.

Pathways to Law aims to help young people develop aspirations and confidence so they can enter the competitive legal professions. It gives them the necessary knowledge and skills, including incredible work experience opportunities.

Pathways to Law is free and offered at 11 UK universities, including the University of Exeter and is jointly funded and managed by The Sutton Trust. Participants get support in accessing higher education, training in soft skills, and understanding careers in law.

This week the tenth Pathways to Law cohort from the University of Exeter attended a graduation celebration ceremony together with their families and those involved in running the programme.

Pathways to Law runs for two academic years in sixth form. Alongside a work experience placement with a leading employer, there is a programme of skills workshops and information sessions, visits to legal institutions, networking events with partner universities and leading professionals, and a summer residential.

Teenagers have taken part in academic, skills and networking sessions and are supported throughout the programme by University of Exeter undergraduate law ambassadors.

Leanne Smith, Deputy Head of the University of Exeter Law School, said: “I am delighted to celebrate the achievements of those graduating from Pathways to Law among with their family and friends. This is no mean feat alongside doing A-levels and other elements of life in Years 12 and 13. I’d like to thank all the staff who have helped to run the programme and make it such a valuable experience for all those who have participated.

“For me this programme is so important because I was the first person in my family to go to university and I didn’t know much about the legal professions. It is so important to help demystify and ensure young people have information about all the options available to them. The legal profession is changing but slowly. It is so much better when it contains the skills and experience from those of all backgrounds from all around the country.”

Chloe Whitehead, from Bridgwater and Taunton College, now hopes to study Law with European Study at the University of Exeter. She said: “The programme has really helped me grow my confidence about being in a higher education environment, which I didn’t have before.”

Darcey Lewis, from St Cuthbert Mayne School, hopes to study business at university. She said: “The programme has been really good. The highlights have been trips to universities and law courts in London. I now feel more familiar with university life, and more confident about going on to study for a degree.

Matthew Jolliffe, from The Thomas Hardye School, hopes to become a barrister specialising in criminal law. He said: “My highlight of Pathways to Law was the visit to the Inner Temple and my work experience at Browne Jacobson. It was so eye opening and sparked my interest in commercial and company law too.”

Local law firms and other organisations have either provided work experience opportunities or delivered skills or other insight sessions. This includes Addleshaw Goddard LLP, Ashfords LLP, Boult Wade Tennant LLP, Browne Jacobson LLP, the Crown Prosecution Service, Devon Chambers, the Exeter Law Courts, Foot Anstey LLP, the Government Legal Department  KBG Chambers, Magdalen Chambers, Michelmores LLP, Mishcon de Reya LLP, Murrell Associates LLP, Nat West Group, The Family Law Company, The Inner Temple, The University of Law, Tozers LLP, Trowers & Hamlins LLP, Truro Crown Court, Winckworth Sherwood LLP, Wolferstans Solicitors LLP, and Womble Bond Dickinson LLP.

A total of 37 students from 24 schools and colleges from across the South West were honoured. They also graduated as Exeter Senior Scholars and as National Cohort 16 Pathways to Law participants.

The celebrations were also led by Kate Blackmore, Pathways to Law and Outreach Officer,  undergraduate law student Mykenzie Davies, trainee solicitor Matthew Cordwent (Michelmores LLP), Professor Lee Elliot-Major, OBE, University of Exeter Professor of Social Mobility and Natasha Bellinger, barrister and Joint Head of Magdalen Chambers and a University of Exeter law lecturer.

Other students who graduated were from Bodmin College; Budmouth Technology College; Callywith College; Camborne Science and International Academy; Churchill Community School and Sixth Form Centre; Colyton Grammar School; Exeter College; Gillingham School; Hele’s School; Holyrood Academy; Launceston College; Lipson Co-operative Academy; Plymouth High School for Girls; Poole Grammar School; Saltash Community School; South Devon College; St Cuthbert Mayne School; Stoke Damerel Community College; The King Alfred School; The Spires College; The Thomas Hardye School; Torquay Grammar School for Girls and Truro and Penwith College.