Editor's weekly: Them and us

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  • The help targeting the year 12's and increasing access to secondary schools does not help the aspiring trainees who have already passed that stage!

    It seems a large aspect of the problem is that major law firms ONLY target a handful of the top universities.

    Why are there no magic circle firms or large regional firms attending law fayres at universities such as Portsmouth or Bournemouth?

    It is not where your from...but where you are going that matters.

    I would suggest a solution in firms not asking for the name of your school or university. That way they would not know who was from a private school/ top uni !

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  • It's all very well encouraging disadvantaged youngsters to consider a career in law, but that doesn't remove the barrier of an extra year of stufdy (LPC/BVC) with huge costs. Some might get BVC scholarships or training contracts that pay for the LPC, but they will be in the minority.

    Law is a relatively expensive profession to train for (as opposed to, say, accountacy where it's easier to get an employer to pay the full costs and more expected that you will do the training part time alongside earning money). It almost requires you to take on debt, which is more difficult if you don't have parents to back you up and when, given current uncertainties around securing positions on qualification, there is no guarantee that you will be in a position to pay back those debts.

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  • I agree with Lucas, helping schoolkids and university students only helps those who are still at that stage. It doesn't help people who have actually, gasp, graduated and maybe got some experience behind them.

    Although, if you don't get a training contract by the time you finish primary school then you're doomed to a life of obscurity and working as a chimney sweep, spending your weekends in a small pub surrounded by other severely ill men and muttering into your ale about how you couldn't hack it.

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  • Lucas, I have to disagree with your view. Law firms target the top universities because they hold the highest proportion of academically capable students. City law firms require extremely intelligent people to work in them and you need a stellar academic record to prove that. Understandably, some students matured and flourished later in their academic career, but from a business perspective, it is not economically viable for law firms to attend law fairs at universities where the majority of students will not be able to cope with the academic pressure dealt out by the firms during the TC. I'm attending Manchester next year which is targeted heavily, and the reason for that (like many other top unis) is that it holds a large amount of academically capable students.

    Furthermore, I believe there is not a closed shop policy operated by law firms regarding privately educated solicitors, but that over the years the candidates that came out as more likely to fit into the firm's image, and performed best in the training contract interviews, were educated in the independent sector. It may be their parent's influence on them, or the values they gained at school, but I do not believe the firms are deliberately choosing private school candidates for one moment. Imagine the backlash if this was true, especially over the last ten years in such a labourite political climate. They are just taking the most able candidates, and this happens to be a large proportion of privately educated candidates. Good on the law firms for not succumbing to political pressure and sacrificing their reputation in order to appear politically correct; unlike universities now days, take Oxford & Durham for example this year; applying blanket mathematical formula to all university applications just to add weight to those who may have underperformed at state school.

    But what about the ones who didn't under-perform, but still got an offer etc due to the result of the formula, when a more academically talented applicant from private school got rejected.

    Wouldn't you agree that this example erodes the idea of a meritocracy? Yet because privately educated students are easy targets for reverse-snobbery led persecution, it goes unchecked, everyone assuming they are so 'privileged'. When in fact, if they can't get into the best universities when they have the best grades, how can they be called 'privileged'? They are disadvantaged. Regrettably, this is a side that is very much under-considered, because it wouldn't be a popular article in a newspaper. It is a sorry state of affairs. There should be at least SOME sympathy for privately educated students in some ways, rather than this blanket lack of support for them.

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  • "City law firms require extremely intelligent people to work in them and you need a stellar academic record to prove that."

    Stellar academic record? Hardly. Most City lawyers study a Mickey Mouse degree, often Basket Weaving, then con firms into thinking that their first in the nonsensical subject makes them more intelligent and more "diverse" than stuffy law graduates who have no interests outside of academic legal debates.

    You don't need a great academic mind to stand by a photocopier for two years, unless City firms have a Cray supercomputer for their photocopier.

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  • I do not disagree that many students from private educational backgrounds have the strong academic ability to gain entry into the top universities.....it is obvious that city law firms would look to target the best academic ability. But consider this scenario/comparison:

    - A teenager, from a very poor single parent family...has to work part time to help support his family...goes to a rough school... most of his friends are into crime & drugs but he is determined to be a success......

    - A teenager...from a rich background...goes to a private school...a network of family contacts...has the resources and facilities to travel, volunteer, work abroad...a nice quiet bedroom to study in and achieve those high grades....no extra social pressures!!!

    - Now I would argue that the teenager in the second scenario gets a t.contract with a top firm because they have excellent academic ability..HOWEVER...the candidate in the first scenario, although having less academic ability (on paper) and at a lower ranked university has had a much tougher upbringing and is able to deal with the pressures of a life in a much more effective manner. Yet who gives him/her their lucky break?

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  • Yes Lucas, I agree with you. The issue here, I'm sure you'll agree, is the management and funding of state secondary education, and the lack of careers services and support networks within these institutions. For many, this system has therefore failed them. That is why the initiatives mentioned in the editors article targets the lower & upper sixth age groups, in an attempt to remedy this situation.

    In my opinion it should be the priority of government NOT to push every student into university just to meet targets. Instead they should discard the targets and channel the money into secondary education, which when provided adequately will allow the able children that struggle in poor family circumstances to fulfil their potential and go onto strong academic universities.

    It remains the case that when you attend a lower rated university, city law firms are far less likely to employ you. That said, a partner at SJ Berwin told me in April that if you wish to succeed and you are determined - you will. I'm sure you'll agree the sentiment here is well placed. The 'lucky break' is out there, it is just unfortunately harder to locate, but if you look hard enough you will find it.

    In my opinion it is wrong how state secondary schools can put poorer children in the position you mentioned. It is also wrong how the government tells universities to take candidates with lower grades AND poorer backgrounds (treating the symptom of the system, not the cause!), and it is wrong how someone who has been through a lower ranked university, but has nevertheless achieved, has to work harder to attain a training contract.

    It is a travesty. The system has failed the poorer children at secondary level, the richer children at university level, and many more able students at graduate level. It needs fixing. We need a body that understands this issue and would resolve it with genuine motive and passion. Instead, we have political parties that are driven by votes, sound bites, and manipulated statistics. 28% of young adults go to university? WOW GREAT. How many of them actually feel their university degree is helping them move in a strongly positive direction? Not enough, evidently.

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