What books do you recommend to learn more about social mobility issues in the legal profession? Joanna is asked this question a lot and often writes on LinkedIn on this subject. If you would like to educate yourself or your team on social mobility as it relates to the legal profession, listed below are some book recommendations.
Social Mobility: what do we know and what should we do about it by Lee Elliot-Major and Stephen Machin. Lee Elliot-Major is the only Professor of Social Mobility and is based at University of Exeter.
The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged by Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison. Explores why it is that even when those from working-class backgrounds successfully enter Britain’s elite occupations, they face a powerful class pay gap. No detail on the legal profession, but some interesting statistics that include law in the ‘Getting In’ chapter.
Highly discriminating by Louise Ashley – the subtitle to the book is “Why the City isn’t fair and diversity doesn’t work” but really the main message is that if the City recruits diverse people it should not expect them to assimilate to the dominant culture of the City. A similar book to The Class Ceiling but focused on financial and professional services.
Lowborn by Kerry Hudson. Published in 2019, Lowborn is a reflection on her childhood in poverty. Through her journeys back to the places she grew up, from Aberdeen to Great Yarmouth, she talks about the hardships she lived with. I connected with Kerry after reading the book because it moved me so much.
Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey. “Takes you inside the experience of poverty to show how the pressures really feel and how hard their legacy is to overcome…an unforgettable insight into modern Britain”. A similar theme to Lowborn – good for allies who have not experienced poverty themselves.
The End of Aspiration by Duncan Exley. Looks at the journeys of a diverse group of people’s lives who have experienced social mobility, and then asks how they can translate into practical steps to deliver the sea-change on social mobility Britain so clearly needs.
A Dutiful Boy by Mohsin Zaidi (a qualified lawyer who worked at Linklaters and 6KBW). Great on intersectionality. The book is (from front cover) “A memoir of a gay Muslim’s journey to acceptance”, but much content also on socio-economic background – Zaidi was the first person from his comprehensive school to go to Oxford University.
One of Them by Musa Okwonga (qualified City lawyer following Eton and Oxford education, now acclaimed poet, author, journalist, broadcaster and consultant in the fields of creativity and communications). An “intimate account of race and class in modern Britain”.
Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala. Great on intersectionality.
Educated by Tara Westover. A favourite with many lawyers working to promote social mobility, this book demonstrates the transformative power of education.
On Being Included by Sara Ahmed. Recommended to Joanna by a Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce Working Group academic colleague, this book explores the gap between symbolic commitments to diversity and the experience of those who embody diversity.
Born to Fail? Social Mobility: a Working Class View by Sonia Blandford. A manifesto for a fairer start for all children and young people. Chapter 3 starts: “I am always uncomfortable with what seems to me a national obsession with rating the social mobility of a family by the numbers who get to university, rescued by the middle-class ideal of what it means to have a successful life”.
Snakes & Ladders: The Great British Social Mobility Myth by Selina Todd. A narrative that documents the voices of working-class people. Selina Todd is Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford. Published in 2022, it’s a really good read for anyone interested in social mobility in the UK.
Respectable: Crossing the Class Divide by Lynsey Hanley. About what it means to cross class divides, what we leave behind in order to get on, and how class affects all of us today.
SOAR, by Lord Simon Woolley, published in 2022. To quote words from the book jacket, Soar is “about becoming your own role model, when no others have been available to you”. Lord Woolley writes about his childhood, the jobs he had such as ticket tout and mechanic and the important skills he learnt from these roles, Operation Black Vote, fatherhood and his journey to the House of Lords and to be the Head of Cambridge University’s Homerton College (and much more). As you would expect, beautifully written.