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Ouch. Its only my third day back in the office after a fantastic trip to Iceland and my head is already hurting. But I doubt the pain Im suffering comes anywhere close to that being felt by some Lawyer2B.com users who recently applied for Career Development Loans (CDL).
As we exclusively reported earlier this week we were contacted by some students who had approached Barclays Bank for these subsidised loans to fund their Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). But much to their horror the applications were rejected just weeks before they were due to start their courses.
So why did Barclays refuse to offer CDLs to these students? After all, there was no reason to doubt their eligibility as it was widely assumed by students, law schools and the three CDL banks that the loans were available for non-law graduates who want to complete the GDL. Have the rules been changed without any warning?
The Learning & Skills Council (LSC) insists that this isnt the case and that it should never have been possible to use CDLs to fund law conversion courses. In a statement, the LSC claims it was approached by a bank last month seeking to have the rules clarified and this was the clarification.
But whether the rules have been changed or just clarified, the net effect is exactly the same. The timing sucks especially for those students who thought they could use these loans to pay for law conversion courses and are now being forced to find alternative sources of funding or to change their plans. Whats more, from what I gather, the LSCs handling of the issue hasnt been without difficulties.
Indeed, to be perfectly frank Im not entirely sure why CDLs arent available for law conversion courses. The rules say the loans are available only for courses that lead directly to employment. Admittedly, the GDL does in most cases lead only to the Legal Practice Course. But why else would anyone want to complete the GDL other than to qualify as a lawyer?
Denying non-law students a valuable source of funding for the astronomical costs entailed in breaking into the legal profession will put them at a disadvantage. Its also going to put students under more pressure to choose a career path while theyre still in sixth form. Because if youre even remotely interested in qualifying as a lawyer its safer to study law than to face a bill worth thousands of pounds to pay for a conversion course when an important source of funding has suddenly dried up.
These are simply backward steps and potentially damaging to the efforts that law firms are making to open up the profession.
If youve had your application for a CDL rejected on similar grounds then please do get in touch.