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The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has delivered a severe blow to aspiring legal aid lawyers by scrapping its multi-million pound training contracts grants scheme.
The programme, which was launched in 2002, provides awards of up to £20,000 to legal aid firms to pay Legal Practice Course fees and trainee solicitor salaries and was only expanded less than two years ago when the LSC awarded 150 grants worth a whopping £3m (Lawyer2B.com, 10 November 2008).
The LSC said in a statement on its website: “Unfortunately, we have taken the decision not to award training grants this year. Coming at a time when legal aid has to bear its share of the cuts across the whole public sector, we cannot continue to sustain the scheme at this time.
As you know, all organisations in the public sector need to make savings and cut non-essential spending. The legal aid budget must play its part in this and, as far as possible, frontline services are being protected.”
The Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) group has reacted angrily to the move. It said in a statement: “YLAL is bitterly disappointed to learn that the LSC will no longer be providing sponsored training contracts. The withdrawal of these grants sends a very clear message that the LSC is not committed to quality or social mobility within the legal aid sector.”