Pathways to the Professions 

The Pathways to the Professions initiative is a key component of UCD’s commitment to become a ‘University for All’

The Pathways to the Professions project extends access beyond the university and academic success to career preparation and achievement.

The project uses the Law profession as a test bed to develop a model of best practice. This will then be extended (with appropriate adaptation) to a range of professions, including Archaeology, Architecture, Engineering, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Social Work etc. Taking a holistic approach, the Pathways to the Professions addresses barriers to early career progression and allows students to fulfil their career aspirations. The Pathways to the Professions follow the student lifecycle, from Pre-entry, University to Graduation. It aims to support students throughout their learning experience before and at university and onto early career success. The project is funded by UCD, Rethink Ireland and runs in conjunction with UCD Sutherland Opportunity supported by Mason Hayes & Curran. It is led by the UCD Access and Lifelong Learning.

Check out UCD Law Moot Court programme with DEIS primary schools (run by Dr Suzanne Egan)

For more information on the Pathways to the Professions, please contact 


Rethink Ireland

Mason Hayes & Curran logo


The lack of Diversity in the legal profession in Ireland has been well documented (LSRA, Law Society and The Bar of Ireland). Through focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with Access students on UCD law programmes, we generated interesting insights into the barriers to the legal profession and the challenges that graduates from underrepresented groups face in their early career progression into the legal profession. A snapshot of our findings has been outlined below. 

Who You Know/ not What You Know

“Applying for many vacation schemes, it appears that those who know somebody who has a background in law tend to have a higher chance of receiving a job offer. Additionally, I believe that there is a degree of discrimination as in how firms want their employees to look/speak.” (Law student) 

Minority Tax 

“It’s been such a burden to be the face of diversity in so many ways. I can’t speak for every black person. It puts a lot of pressure on myself. People look up to me to be the face of hope. I don’t want to be  identified just because I’m a black solicitor, which of course I am. It’s good in a way but it just gets tiring. What I would like to see is that the people who make decisions for diversity should also be diverse themselves” (Practicing Solicitor) 

Backing A Lost Cause

“I live in a rural area,  getting those connections with the big city firms and getting my name out there is a big issue. Because some people are born and raised in Dublin, their parents are lawyers, or  they know people in the profession. So, they have those connections or networks. Meanwhile, I'm here starting from the ground up, I don't know anyone, I have to my own name. I've tried to get myself out there by myself, just on my merit alone. I suppose that's a big thing for me, having to convince people to have enough faith in me to support my career progression and that they're not thinking that they're backing a lost cause” (Law student) 

A Disembodied Profession

“Firms need to do more outreach to students so that they are not like some sort of a disembodied thing or hierarchy. When you go to an interview for the first time you panic because you don't know what these people are like. That you're not comfortable around them. So, I think just being  more approachable and welcoming for students is a big thing. Just so they know, it's not a big scary law firm that they're going into. It is a community once you go in” (Law student 2021) 

They Love the story not Diversity

“They love the story but they don’t know how to deal with people from different backgrounds. They don’t know how to talk or train people from different backgrounds.” (Trainee solicitor)

Fallacy of Meritocracy 

“I am now entering my 4th year of law and performed very well in my degree. However, I will be hamstrung by my leaving cert grades in Ireland, as law firms now ask for leaving cert results, despite the fact that I have scored highly in my three years of law at UCD, which specifically focus on law. It is incredibly disheartening to know that I am essentially being judged on my average grade in physics when I was only 17, and not my consistently strong grades in law during my actual degree” (Law student) 

Matching the Room 

“Growing up in Ireland I was used to being the only black person in civic spaces. I just didn't see myself represented. I was the only black person in the crowd, that’s very intimidating. Because there was a lack of diversity or awareness of diversity, it was very alienating in that sense. To think about why I left, it was the overall system in terms of the profession. It wasn't accommodating, it wasn’t hospitable. You have to assimilate; you can’t be yourself. You have to match the room.” (Former Trainee)

UCD Access and Lifelong learning possess an impressive track record of expanding equitable access to higher education and increasing student participation from underrpresented groups. Our most recent publication Who Counts? University for All Data, Metrics and Evidence 2020-21 brings together many years of work spanning admissions, participation, progression, retention, outward mobility, completion and graduate outcomes.