Cambridge dons rebel against LPC proposal for 'City trainees'

Cambridge University's law faculty is in turmoil over plans for a legal practice course (LPC) which academics fear will be hijacked by City law firms.

A series of internal documents seen by The Lawyer reveals the deep divisions in the faculty over proposals for a potentially lucrative LPC.

Faculty chairman Professor Kevin Gray resigned from his post two weeks ago amid accusations that an LPC at Cambridge would be controlled by City firms. A faculty spokeswoman says Gray's resignation is not connected to the internal wrangles although a letter, seen by The Lawyer, from Gray to academics claims that the LPC debate “has now descended to the level of personal abuse”.

According to a letter sent by Gray in March, the faculty agreed in principle in May 1998 that it was “desirable” to become “involved in vocational training”.

The faculty looked at a joint scheme with Anglia Polytechnic University which supporters say would have earned it £130,000 a year from fees.

But the proposal has met with stubborn resistance from academics, who were asked to circulate their views before a crucial meeting last month.

One letter, seen by The Lawyer, was sent by Dr Pippa Rogerson, director of law studies at Gonville & Caius College. It says the course is “a mindless, tedious, expensive exercise that has to be followed to qualify. The students hate it and we are unlikely to send out a group with positive views of their academic experience in Cambridge if their last year is so intellectually impoverished.

“If the City firms are paying, they will want to control not only content, but who gets a place and who teaches the course. Also no one else will be able to afford such a specialised expensive course, so it will only be City trainees taking it.”

Others who question the wisdom of an LPC are Professors Gareth Jones QC at Trinity College and John Baker at St Catherine's College.