Careers: Meet the Transformers

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  • Anonymous | 20-Aug-2013 7:24 am : 'I still can't understand why we let people who have spent three years studying philosophy or media studies undertake a 1 year paint by numbers course and then be on the same route as those who have spent three years studying law on an LLB.'

    Neither can I. What this means is that you don't need a law degree to become a solicitor or barrister. It would sound surprising, if not horrifying, to hear.

    I can teach myself dentistry; so can anyone, but what kind of profession are we developing whereby a degree in the discipline itself can be side-stepped?

    The legal profession is now a free-for-all and it shouldn't be. Such a shame.

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  • I think it was Jonathan Sumption QC (a history don and allegedly one of the cleverest lawyers ever to practice at the Bar) who said: "doing a law degree stifles creativity and numbs the brain". I have no idea what point he was making.

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  • Ramon, Sumption was educated at Eton and Oxford and studied, as you mention, History.

    So three things:

    1) He has class status and clearly was not a serf;
    2) He did not study law;
    3) He is of the upper crust.

    It is precisely this elitist snobbery that the legal profession needs to combat. Of course anyone without a law degree can fob it off as irrelevant once they've bulldozed their way in, but Sumption has clearly proven my point about Oxbridge/elitist alumni having an easy ride.

    Again, I do not care about his status or his academic credentials. If he did not do a law degree then he is in no position to pass comment and his absence of an LLB means he is a custard short of a pudding. Indeed, and especially with that sort of arrogant dismissiveness, he should have gone to the back of the queue inside of riding on his elitist academic background.

    If you agree with his comments then you imply, perhaps without realising it, that he and others like him are so good, that his opinions (and the opinions of those like him) are the benchmark. I disagree with that mentality. If anything, the law degree (as I have said before) could do with an overhaul: more practical aspects geared towards the professions. Who knows, perhaps intercalation could be offered, as medical students do.

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  • An LLB is not a pre-requisite of being a good lawyer in the same way that an MBA does not a good businessman make.

    When I recruit somebody to my team I am looking for somebody who is going to be a good litigation lawyer. They may have an LLB, they may not.

    On a personal level, my history degree has proved more useful to me in my career as a litigation lawyer than the CPE(GDL) and LSF(LPC) combined.

    What is important is education, not training. A good education at degree level, in whatever subject, will equip you with the real skills you need as a lawyer. The reality for most solicitors is that, unless you are brave enough to become a generalist high street lawyer (and I take my hat off to those who do) you can forget 90% of the law you learnt and will never miss it.

    As for the suggestion that you can tell which trainees have not done a law degree - well yes you can. In my experience they are often the ones with the most rounded skills, honed whilst their LLB peers were stuck in a library researching some arcane point of jurisprudence.

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  • I think those saying 'LLB only' are looking at it from the wrong way round. Do non-law degree holders make decent lawyers? Might they be able to use non-law related experiences in the work place?

    The answer to both of these must be yes otherwise they wouldn't get recruited. Therefore, asking for change doesn't seem very sensible.

    Saying they should 'get to the back of the queue' also sounds a bit like sour grapes.

    ...."All the foreigners are taking our jobzzzz"

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  • Ramon, you say Jonathan Sumption QC is 'allegedly one of the cleverest lawyers ever to practice at the Bar'. Well I'm sorry to anyone who thinks he is, but this narcissism towards those at the top and this submission in complete awe to those at the top is one of the banes of the legal profession. Based on what standard or scale is he 'one of the cleverest'? Because of his schooling?

    Doesn't mean anything to me, sorry!

    And (yes I know it's not correct grammar to start a sentence with 'and') he did not study law at university, he studied history, so how can he possible comment on a law degree? If the narcissistic sycophantic flatterers of Mr Sumption et al. truly believe those remarks, then the same can be said for studying any degree, including history. Although having said that, how he can say that, after studying history and then stumbling into law, history allowed for him the opposite of stifling creativity and numbing the brain, is completely beyond me.

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  • Anon. above says: 'Do non-law degree holders make decent lawyers? Might they be able to use non-law related experiences in the work place?

    The answer to both of these must be yes otherwise they wouldn't get recruited. Therefore, asking for change doesn't seem very sensible.'


    Would a non- engineering degree engineer make a good engineer? Possibly. Would you prefer a doctor with a medical degree over someone who did a conversion course? Almost certainly.

    I don't know what you mean by 'non-law experiences'. How do you mean? Please enlighten me on how someone, to quote Up North, with a degree in classics might benefit the legal profession with knowledge of the Battle of Troy? How might a history degree holder benefit the legal profession with knowledge of Tudor England?

    So the answer isn't 'yes', it's all about pieces of paper, snobbery and numbers.

    As for The History Man (above), who says: 'As for the suggestion that you can tell which trainees have not done a law degree - well yes you can. In my experience they are often the ones with the most rounded skills, honed whilst their LLB peers were stuck in a library researching some arcane point of jurisprudence.'

    What rounded skills?

    People skills? Eccentricity? Able to engage in a bit of non-legal conversation? Showing off the fact they did a degree that would lead to a dead end? If LLB students 'were stuck in a library researching some arcane point of jurisprudence' (which isn't exactly true, although were you sadly of the impression that an LLB is a mickey mouse degree?), then firstly what is the point in doing a degree in anything if you're not going to learn about it, and what benefit to the legal profession are history graduates who were stuck in a library researching some arcane point of the War of the Roses? Your argument does not make sense. Anyone would have more faith in a lawyer who studied law inside out than a so-called 'lawyer' who did a rushed, basic diploma in law known as a GDL, and anyone with the slightest bit of sense would know that in so most professions and disciplines, many people find a niche (and there can be overlap, of course). For example, between organic and inorganic chemistry, English language and English literature, podiatry and opthalmology.

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  • I studied the GDL and am in agreement with those who say that it is not fit for purpose. The idea of being able to do a 1 year course and be up to speed with someone who has done a 3 year LLB is laughable. There are a couple of points made above by some people who start with that premise with which I disagree though.

    I am not sure that I equate the academic study of law with the practical application of it as a solicitor. Perhaps it is because I have not done a law degree, perhaps it is because I am following the solicitor rather than barrister route. Regardless, I think that performance in any academic, essay-based degree shows whether or not someone has the aptitude for becoming a solicitor. I believe the skills developed on those degrees are those which are essential for practising law; research, comprehension, analysis, eloquence, critique etc.

    My first degree was geography, which is perhaps seen as a dead end degree by some. However it is not the knowledge of geography that I came out with which I cherish and use the most; it is the skills I developed in my learning and this is why I think the GDL is useless. You are spoon-fed information, with no chance to explore the subject and develop research and writing skills. That was not a problem for me, and others who had studied similar academic, research and essay-based subjects. For those who had not and yet who still passed the GDL, they did not and do not have the skill-set that I think is necessary to be a solicitor. It’s not degree snobbery, it’s just a fact that your learning should be appropriate for your goals. My geography degree and subsequent legal qualifications would be pretty useless for other fields.

    I would also argue that not everyone who has done a law degree is suited to becoming a solicitor or barrister. I think conflating academic study and professional practise is a mistake. The GDL/LLB issue is really a separate one to aptitude at work. I believe the GDL is ridiculous because it is supposed to equate, academically, to the LLB. This is clearly not the case.

    I think that a conversion course should be permissible, however I think that entrance to it should be based on having a ‘qualifying degree’ as with the medical short course; to be eligible for that, it is necessary to hold a relevant science-based degree. What is wrong with compiling a list of degrees which provide the relevant skills for legal study? It should not be a case of ‘any degree will do’.

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  • I think it reflects more upon the inadequacy for purpose of a theoretical law degree that a non law graduate can rock up and do just as competent a job at trainee level.

    Trainees learn for more useful 'stuff' about being a good lawyer on their training contract than anyone learns on an LLB, GDL or LPC. Once the contract is completed, I very much doubt non law NQs are of lesser quality.

    The issue here seems to be about LLB graduates who are a bit cheesed off that those with a bit less direction (or a bit more foresight) have an easier route into the career.

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  • 'The issue here seems to be about LLB graduates who are a bit cheesed off that those with a bit less direction (or a bit more foresight) have an easier route into the career.'

    No. The issue is not as simple as that, and it is not simply a matter of 'foreigners taking our jobs', but given you're so dismissive, you obviously carry snobbery with you into the legal world which is a contributory factor in its demise.

    The difference between a foreigner taking jobs and a foreigner taking jobs is that the former is doing jobs nobody else wanted to do but the tabloids don't portray it that way. With the latter, an LLB graduate wants to work in any legal capacity but is denied this. If the degree could be more in-depth, stringent and for a longer duration, this might help, but if anyone can come and exercise any profession through a flash-stop course, then all professions are certain to deteriorate. I do also believe that if an LLB was compulsory, most chancers would not bother, which demonstrates a lot about their mindsets and attitude towards a career in law and the wider profession.

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