University of Law accused of “despicable” debt collecting by aggrieved father

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  • "I don’t believe that when a 21-year-old ticks a terms and conditions box they are really cognisant of what they are entering into"

    How ridiculous. I agree with the University of Law on this one. You would not get a refund in any other comparable situation such as the holiday scenario given above. A 21-year-old man does not need a parent holding his hand to read terms and conditions - especially an aspiring lawyer of all people.

    There is a procedure to cancel but Michael cancelled three days late. That is his fault. He signed up and agreed to the terms and conditions - nobody forced him to. If he wasn't sure then he should have cancelled within the time period.

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  • To quote you:

    “Board member for business development Sarah Hutchinson said: “I am not at liberty to discuss an individual case. I refute that he attempted to cancel....”

    If she is not at liberty to discuss an individual case then what on earth does she discuss the very case she is not at liberty to discuss?

    This one “board member”, if your report is accurate, proves that the “University of Law” is no different from any other business.

    Your conscientious and learned readers must include a good few who must have passed through what used to be the College of Law.

    It is hyped up beyond endurance.

    As are the other “Law Schools” in England. As indeed are the Inns of Court.

    It is time to bring all the facts to the fore and they say that there is no ivory tower, no special college or institution. What matters is who the particular people are who are in charge of a given course to a programme. If you are lucky and they turn out to be decent and competent as well then that is the best you can hope for. Otherwise, you must not drop your guard and treat the law trading colleges and courses and programmes just as much in it for what they can materially gain out of it as is allowed them.

    What “allows them” that is what the affected people do when they find the evidence of despicable conduct.

    It is absolutely vital that the myths about the law are removed from the bare beastly reality of life that is very tough for most people who need the protection of the law but are denied it daily.

    The case you report contains in it all the ingredients that constitute compelling evidence to debunk all the myths that glorify “the law” trade!

    You report Hutchinson as claiming that her business (Oops! University!) is training lawyers. She says it as if to do that you have to engage in training people to be cruel, uncaring and, to quote the reported youngster’ father, despicable!

    That really sums up the despicable level where the former College of Law has reached.

    As so many other institutions must also have already descended to!

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  • I have very little symtpathy. It is bad PR for the University, but ultimately, it is a binding, contractual relationship so the comments about public v private sector are largely irrelevant. And surely this is a debt claim, so no obligation on the University to mitigate its losses in any event.

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  • So he signed the contract and now the Dad says it's unfair because the son didn't cancel within the terms of the contract? Offensive defence I think.

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  • If the purpose of this story is to garner sympathy for this individual then I can assure you it has not succeeded in my case. If you want to be a lawyer you should never, never, play the faux-stupid card in an argument like this. Did this poor, innocent 21 year-old think he was booking a cancellable table in a restaurant?

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  • I suspect it wasn't only hidden away in the Terms and Conditions that the boy "ticked on a website" – I was sponsored through my GDL and LPC so it didn't really have the same impact on me and yet I can certainly remember being "cognisant" of the fact that there were deadlines for pulling out. There always are and course providers generally do point the proverbial big red hand at it and I would wager it would be held enforceable by a court. Whether College of Law have actually suffered any loss and whether they should (on a moral rather than legal level) use their discretion not to pursue in certain circumstances where a student has cancelled very shortly after the deadline is another question, of course.

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  • It shouldn't be bad PR for the University. It's someone with a feeble legal claim trying to draw attention to the grievance in the hope of leveraging a more favourable outcome. All the time being completely blind to how it makes the complainer, and his wannabe-lawyer son, look.

    Most advisers to consumer-facing businesses will be used to dealing with such types now and again. It is surprising that The Lawyer should give space to nonsense like this.

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  • I would like to protest strongly about the misuse of the word "refute" by the College of Law when they mean "reject". They should know better.

    I also agree that the article is not helpful on the legal issues. It is a liquidated damages provision so comes down to whether or not is a penalty and mitigation etc is irrelevant. Personally, I don't think it is straightforward that this is a valid liquidated damages clause.... Also legislation protecting consumers likely to be relevant. If I were College of Law, not sure I would like a test case.

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  • “For a contract to exist in law, both parties have to be cognisant of that fact. I don’t believe that when a 21-year-old ticks a terms and conditions box they are really cognisant of what they are entering into."
    He was 21 for goodness sake, not 6. He's not a 'kid' he's a fully grown adult who entered into a contract and then broke it. This story's not going to do Michael's future job prospects any favours.

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  • Agreed that this complaint by the father is not on. Some people always try and get out of paying for things. When the student signed a contract binding him to pay such a large amount of money (and in so doing deprived another applicant of that place at the University of Law) the least he should have done is paid attention to the deadline and made sure that he complied with that deadline. If he didn't it's his fault, not the University of Law's. If the University of Law bent their rules for him it would be very unfair on other students in a similar situation in past years who had pulled out too late and who had then behaved in a responsible and adult manner and paid up, whether by taking out a bank loan or otherwise. It would also mean that future drop outs would be able to argue that the deadlines should not apply to them, which would render the whole deadline system (which has for years enabled the University of Law to efficiently manage the applications process) completely meaningless.

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  • The guy clearly owes a cancellation fee. That much is clear. However, I do think there is some room to argue that £4,500 is a totally unreasonable amount to pay. I'd want justification that there has indeed been that level of loss to the University.

    I'm starting the LPC at the "University" of Law next week and have been utterly unimpressed with its organisational skills which leave me wondering how true their assertion is that "After that point, our resources are committed. Our tutors, classrooms and materials are not recoverable beyond that point." Timetables are only notified to students a week or two before the course starts, despite many students needing to arrange part time work well in advance. I still have no idea what subjects I am even studying or what days these are on and I was told a week ago that I have to be at induction in London on a day this week when I am supposed to at work.

    And they are obsessed with getting your money. You have to pay extortionate deposits and the term fees must be paid upfront, well in advance. I had emails sent to me in error recently saying I owed hundreds of pounds when actually I am being sponsored through the LPC and don't owe them a penny.

    I suppose I find it difficult to be sympathetic to LPC providers who, in my mind, are making a killing off students by unfairly marketing their courses to swathes of uniformed and under qualified, wannabe lawyers who will never make it yet fall for the claims that the LPC will give them a huge advantage in obtaining a training contract. It doesn't by the way - for any people considering giving it a crack. LPC providers make their money off these cash-cow students and I personally don't think it's fair. There should be more stringent entry requirements and students given realistic advice about the state of the legal market before embarking on a £14,000 course. But there we go.

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  • Good decision to stay away from the law. It used to be a good career. For most people who take a law degree, great opportunities are long gone. That universities offering courses in law continue to be subsidised by public funds is a disgrace.

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  • I imagine any educational establishment would apply similar rules - by taking a place you are keeping someone else off the course. No school, university or college could work on the basis that students just turn up on the day if they feel like it. There has to be a cut-off date.

    Sounds like the son's instinct that he wasn't cut out to be a lawyer was correct ...

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  • This does seem a little heavy-handed on the part of the UoL. But the agreement is the agreement - should have cancelled on time.

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  • His repeated use of the word "kid" is extremely aggravating. His son was a university graduate considering becoming a lawyer; he was (by several years) old enough to enter into full blown contractual and financial agreements. His son's inability to organise himself and take responsibility for adhering to the clear terms and conditions of the contract have resulted in him owing thousands. Welcome to the real word. Stamping your feet and saying the University should let him off on moral grounds is rather pathetic behaviour, and this story has certainly not endeared me to his cause at all.

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  • "I am not at liberty to discuss an individual case..." Well, apparently, yes you are. Or you aren't, but you chose to go ahead anyway. Choose one or the other -- state that you can't comment on individual cases and then put the phone down (or enter into a semi-philosophical discussion about English contract law, or maybe discuss the ins and outs of the European Central Bank's monetary policy, or maybe beekeeping); or -- go ahead and give a comment and try as hard as you can to avoid prefacing it with a completely insincere and nonsensical statement. Sort it out people.

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  • I have every sympathy with the student and his father. This is what happens when you go to a "University" that is backed by PE money. This would have never happened in a real University. Never!

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  • There is no case to answer.
    If everyone could pull out that easy the courts would be full of cases and this would not make contracts worth the paper they are written upon.
    Just as well this is not going to enter the profession as he would no doubt have the same attitude to the expiry of a limitation period.

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  • The only way they would not have suffered a loss is if they have replaced him
    Are they under a duty to do so and if so, how? They can try and mitigate their 'loss'.
    Perhaps they have a reserve list and if they can or have done that then they are in no worse position and should not take any further steps.

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  • Man up and pay your whack, and stop getting dad to fight your battles. What a lot of nonsense!

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  • why on earth is The Lawyer reporting on this? it must be a slow week with nothing much newsworthy going on. Wonder what Chuck Norris makes of it all?

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  • Father, not unconnected to the media, is taken by surprise that offspring cannot actually read after 16 years or so of education, decides to take it out on others and succeeds in humiliating son.

    As far as "lay solicitor" goes, this sort of thing only tends to confirm that people do need the training the likes of the "University" and BPP and Kaplan sell.

    Unclear whether the ire is the method chosen to pursue the debt - does seem a bit mysterious why the "university" did nothing for a couple of years - or that it could be pursued at all. Seems to be the latter. Hopeless argument.

    Take it out of the feckless child's inheritance if you must.

    21 years old? Alexander was King of Macedon at 20. 2 years older than the Vietnam average. I blame the parents.

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  • Don't think dad should take his "lay solicitor" credentials to the big leagues, might get laughed out of court...

    Everyone knows UoL, BPP etc are absolutely awful for taking money off people with no proper screening, despite the clear barriers to entry in law. That being said, a contract is a contract and if the kid in question couldn't read then a career in law probably wasn't the one for him

    I can imagine the little tyke just cowering in the corner..."please Dad, please...just let this one drop". I suspect Pops writes strongly worded letters to The Times, Points of View, Southern Rail etc.

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  • The £4,500 that the College / University of Law want the student to pay is probably not realistic. I mean, what cost is involved in printing off an extra set of manuals or having 1 more person sit in on a lecture? CoL / UoL are a bit like the banks charging extortionate amounts of money to send out a letter to a customer, telling them their account was overdrawn. In the end, they were told to reduce the amount they could charge to a maximum of £6 (if I recall correctly) as the usurious amounts they originally charged did not reflect the cost of sending out an automated letter.

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  • Have no sympathy for either party for all the reasons given above. Clearly both of them now look very foolish and are both worse off for letting it come to this, when there must have been a sensible and private solution that could have been agreed a long time ago. Classic example of where both parties cutting their losses early on would have produced a much better result than standing on perceived principles and appealing to a largely unsympathetic public for support.

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  • As a graduate of the CoL, I am with them on this. The terms and conditions are clearly set out. My time at CoL was totally enjoyable and I found the staff very helpful and I am proud to have passed through this institution. In English law you have capacity to contract at 14, so at 21 the "Lad" had more than reached his legal majority. The comments concerning mitigation and liquidated damages are frankly irrelevant. The "man" entered into a service agreement whereby the CoL offered to provide him training and he agreed to pay a fee for it. The training in the event was made available to him if he choose not to attend then thats his problem the service was still made available. The CoL kept to their side of the contract and are entitled to be paid for it. If you don't enforce this kind of thing where does it end? Next we will have those students that fail a course suing for negligence on the basis that their particular tuition was below par. The University make the service available, if you don't use it you still have to pay for the service you contracted.

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  • This looks like an ideal topic for the BBC program 'Rip Of Britain' to look at.
    At least that way every prospective student will be aware of the dangerous of
    entering an agreement with an organisation that is clearly interested
    in only making a profit.

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  • Surprised there are not other comments by would be students who have been contacted by the University.

    I myself was initially going to do the traditional LPC route, but thankfully after having researched the lesser known ILEX route, I enrolled on the Fast Track Level 6 course at Uni of Westminster.

    The UoL contacted me and informed me that I had cancelled after the deadline, highlighting that there is a liability fee amounting to the first installment.

    I felt that the deadline of 31st July is unreasonable to decide on whether you want to stick with a placement, as my results for the GDL hadn't been published yet.

    Although I understand the arguments that one should be accountable for the terms they agreed to, I guess I was certain at the time that I wanted to do the LPC.

    It will be interesting how the UoL would go about chasing me up too and whether the argument of a penalty clause stands.

    I strongly urge any would be LPC student to look into the ILEX alternative route - it simply is not in the interests of the Law Society and providers like UoL and BPP for people to know about ILEX - hence why the vast majority of law students are not even aware of this route.

    There is no elusive training contract hurdle, and you only focus on two practise modules, which is more realistic and practical as you tend to specialise in on area anyway, and you merely need to do three years of paralegal/legal assistant work to qualify as a lawyer - which is what the average LPC grad ends up doing whilst waiting in vain for that TC.

    Legal executives are now much closer to solicitors and barristers than before, they can advocate, become a partner and even become a judge.

    My first lecture is actually tonight as it were.

    I will resist paying UoL a penny more - they already have kept my initial deposit - which is fair play, but I am not paying £4k because I found a better option, and the deadline was unreasonable.

    Would be interesting to see if any more people are in a similar predicament too...I am sure there are.

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  • Oh and forgot to mention the ILEX course is only about £2k. Beats ending up in debt for £15k without a TC, right?

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