Work experience is enabling social mobility at CMS

Sep 27, 2023 | Case studies, Home Featured, Work experience/internships

Marking National Intern Week, Ella Adlard, emerging talent advisor at CMS takes us behind their award-winning work experience programme.

At CMS we believe that enabling social mobility is fundamental to the firm’s success. We are passionate about widening access and aspire to drive long term cultural change ensuring that our workforce is representative of the clients we serve.

CMS Connect is a work experience programme, which has social mobility at its core. It won this year’s ISE Award for Best Work Experience Programme.

CMS Connect

Designed in alliance with PRIME, this paid initiative of sustained support was open to Year 12/S5 students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds.

The Early Talent and Responsible Business teams collaborated to deliver a hybrid work experience week for 56 students.

Whilst we are a law firm, we felt it was important for CMS Connect participants to thrive in any career.

The programme highlighted multiple career paths (for example HR, Business Development, Corporate Responsibility) and training opportunities, supporting participants to develop key transferable skills for their futures.

Programme delivery

During the programme, participants took part in trainee job shadowing, participated in commercial awareness workshops, and developed their presentation skills and professional communication.

Highlights include:

– A Solicitor Apprentice take over event – this was an opportunity to quiz current apprentices about their career, ask for application advice and why they chose an apprenticeship over the traditional university route.
– A Client Carousel – this gave students direct access to key clients, many of whom are household names (such as TSB, Marie Curie, and Aviva), to talk to our students, giving participants the chance to put their commercial awareness and professional communication skills into practise.
– Employability skills workshops with Young Citizens and Causeway Education.
– A Dragons’ Den competition – our participants had to use everything they had learnt from across the week to develop an idea and present to a senior panel of experts from CMS.

Participants spent three days in their allocated office and worked virtually for the remaining two days – reflecting the hybrid way we work at CMS.

Students were also paid for their time on the programme and all travel costs were either reimbursed or arranged in advance.


The programme had considerable impact. Firstly, the number of applications received was 108% higher than 2021. We were also able to host 56 students across four offices – a 59% increase from 2021.

All participants are state educated, with no parent or guardian having attended university. They also all met one or more of the following criteria:

• Received or have received free school meals,
• Have been or currently are in local authority care,
• Are or have been a full or part time carer,
• Came to the UK as a refugee or asylum seeker,
• Attending a state school or college with below average A-level or Higher point score and/or a low rate of progression into higher education.

To measure the impact of the programme, we ran pre and post experience evaluations. This included asking the students how confident they felt in this statement: ‘I know what working at a prestigious law firm is like.’ Pre-programme, the participants rated this 3.9 out of 10. Post programme this increased to 8.2.

We also asked students for their written feedback. Some highlights include:

“I’ve gained so many skills which I think will apply to both my personal and future professional life. I’ve learnt what it’s really like to work in a team […] and I also learnt how to communicate my ideas across to the audience for a presentation.”

“From CMS I have really learnt to communicate well with new people and learnt to step out of my comfort zone. I have managed to apply teamwork skills”

The participants are also supported to apply for our other Early Talent programmes. This year, we have seen nine CMS Connect alumni apply to our Solicitor Apprenticeship programme. One individual also successfully secured a £10,000 Scholarship to support with their university studies.

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More case studies from ISE Award winners

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