Law Society to students: legal career may be too risky

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  • The bottom line is having the right pieces of paper is not enough. If you show a lot of interest by getting the right experience and you having a variety of skills then you certainly have a chance.

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  • If anything is going to further reduce the number of people from non-privileged backgrounds entering the legal profession, it is a campaign telling students that pursuing a career in law may lead to financial ruin (unless your mummy and daddy are able to bail you out).
    Wonderful to see the extra £300 on the cost of the practising certificate going to such good use. Cretins.

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  • What a complete waste of money - if a student can't figure out these risks on their own then you have to question whether they will ever cut it as a solicitor. This problem needs a much more radical solution similar to the BSB's BVC aptitude test.

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  • This is interesting considering the College of Law have opened another branch in Bristol.
    LawyerNot2B - I do not agree. A lot of students are fed so much hype, PR and dreams about a lovely rosy route to being a lawyer. Someone needs to tell them the harsh reality.
    A degree is not enough anymore. The Law Society should be persuading firms to offer more placements. Work experience is so crucial. The candidate doesn't lose out - if they get taken on, great. If not, they have work experience on their CV.

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  • The statement regarding the position in Scotland is incorrect. I started the LPC equivalent (the DLP) without having secured a training contract and in the current climate there are many people doing the DLP right now who do not yet have, and possibly will not ever get, traineeships.
    But I did know about how difficult/expensive risky it would be to try and qualify as a solicitor before starting the LLB. Because I did some research on the internet...

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  • This is just a reflection of a much wider problem caused by the ludicrous government policy of attempting to force 50% of the population into higher education.
    The plain fact is that most people are just too thick to get a worthwhile degree. Giving them a Noddy degree from the University of Noddyland is simply a cruel deception, and the fact that the poor darlings think it's worth having is simply proof of how dense they are.
    Not only are these poor sods being persuaded away from useful non-graduate jobs that they would probably enjoy and that would pay them a decent income, they're being lured into £20,000 or £30,000 of debt in the false promise of a well-paid career.
    So the Law Society are doing them a favour, though as has already been pointed out if the would be lawyers can't work out for themselves that they're wasting their time they aren't bright enough to be lawyers anyway.

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  • Damned idiots. Double damned idiots for them allowing everyone and their dog to offer the CPE and LPC in the first place.

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  • What people seem to forget it that there are other alternative routes to become a lawyer which aren't so academically snobbish and which are more affordable. The Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) was established in 1963 and has been chosen by 80,000 aspiring lawyers.
    For those with no previous legal qualifications, the formal training to become a Legal Executive Lawyer is comprised of two stages: 10 units of study to achieve the Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice (set at ‘A’ level standard), followed by six units of study to achieve the Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice (set at degree-level). This takes around four years part-time but the full cost of qualifying is only around £5500, compared to between £3,000 - £7,000 of CPE/GDL fees on top of the LPC/BVC fees for non-law graduates who wish to be solicitors or barristers.
    If you already hold a qualifying law degree you will be entitled to join ILEX as an Associate member and use the designatory letters “A.Inst.L.Ex” after your name. To complete your academic studies to become a lawyer, you just need to study two ILEX Level 6 practice units (one of which must have been studied as part of your law degree), and the ILEX Level 6 Client Care Skills qualification. This costs only around £1350, compared to the LPC fees of around £6,000 - £10,000 for aspiring solicitors or BVC fees of £8,000 - £11,000 for barristers.
    If you already hold the LPC or the BVC you do not have to take the ILEX qualifications, and can immediately apply to become a Graduate Member of ILEX and use the designatory letters “G.Inst.L.Ex”. Your initial ILEX application will cost you just £590 (including registration, exemption and membership charges), which will drop to around £155 annual membership fees thereafter.
    As well as the relevant academic qualifications, you also need to have a minimum of five years’ qualifying employment, including at least two consecutive years’ experience after successful completion of your ILEX Level 6 qualifications or your LPC/BVC studies. Then you can apply to be a qualified lawyer and use the designatory letters “F.Inst.L.Ex.”.
    There is no training contract or pupillage required. No further full-time study required: complete your ILEX qualifications by part-time study or distance learning and so earn and learn at the same time and so avoid further debt. Places as a trainee Legal
    Executive lawyer may well be available when formal training contracts or pupillages aren’t. Legal Executives who wish to transfer to become solicitors are usually exempt from the SRA’s 2-year training contract.
    These days you can represent your clients in court if you study to be a Legal Executive Advocate, and Legal Executive lawyers are eligible to apply for judicial appointment and to become partners in legal disciplinary firms. There are many benefits to becoming a lawyer through ILEX, and the gaps between being a solicitor, barrister or legal executive lawyer are fast diminishing.

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  • To "Will"
    It is not about discouraging those who have the skills but not the money - it's about making sure they know there are other routes (such as ILEX or part-time study) of entry.
    And it's about making everyone at a similar level aware that they should think carefully before they get into debt.
    It is easy for posters here to be cynical (I think it comes easy to lawyers!) but the truth is that many students aren't aware of all of the options out there and we should be doing everything we can to make sure that they don't sign up for debts which will cripple them later in life.
    It's also about making those who do decide to take the plunge aware that they need to be thinking as early as possible about work experience, about getting as strong academics as they can, about getting involved in anything which could make them a stronger candidate.
    I know this may be obvious, but I don't think it can be said enough.

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  • I think it is wise to warn people with average A-levels and degrees from non-respected Universities to avoid crippling themselves financially by pursuing a career as a barrister or solicitor, where there is little or no hope of making it. However, this is the job of the government, schools and careers services - not the society which is meant to protect and promote the interests of our profession.

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  • I have very good A-levels, degree from red brick Uni, really good grades from GDL and passed the LPC first time with good grades. I have no training contract. I know people on my LPC who failed modules I passed with ease who have a TC with a firm that I applied to 5 days ago and rejected by 3 days ago without even a telephone interview. How does that work? maybe companies should be making HR actual earn their money and go hunt for the best candidates instead of waiting for students to come to them.

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  • I totally agree with 'City Gent' that this is another sympton of the wholly ill advised government strategy to get more people to university. Not everyone can cut it and these "Noddy universities" that have popped up, although justified to an extent by the increase in demand, simply aren't good enough to make these graduates really competitive in the marketplace. In addition, I do think the law school's have something to do with this. As 'Will' puts it above, why are they opening up more sites offering the very courses that get aspiring lawyers in such astronomical debt? The College of Law will be opening another new site in Manchester this September as well as this new site in Bristol that 'Will' mentions. This problem existed before the recession and has merely been exacerbated by the downturn.

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  • I am a Partner in a law firm with a turnover in excess of £50million and I can honestly say that half of the people who applied to my firm this year have no chance whatsoever of obtaining a training contract. Poor grades, no work experience, no life experience BUT, crucially, they have been to (typically) to BPP or the college of law and have bought an LPC qualification that will never be of use to them in a professional capacity - reason: they cannot and will not get a training contract. Legal training is now a business. In my day you applied to law college and got in on merit. Now it is open to anyone with £10,000 and a dream. It is a shame all round. Remember, legal training is a business. They (BPP etc) will sell it to you whether or not it will be a good investment for you taking into account your personal circumstances. Maybe they should be regulated by the FSA!! Ho ho.

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  • Hmmm.... rather sounds like how black cabs in london keep their fares so dear - by stopping too many people from getting in on the racket and lowering prices because of competition. No one outside of the profession believes for a moment this is being done in the interest of people trying to become a lawyer.

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  • This is just a reflection of a much wider problem caused by the ludicrous government policy of attempting to force 50% of the population into higher education.

    The plain fact is that most people are just too thick to get a worthwhile degree. Giving them a Noddy degree from the University of Noddyland is simply a cruel deception, and the fact that the poor darlings think it's worth having is simply proof of how dense they are.

    Not only are these poor sods being persuaded away from useful non-graduate jobs that they would probably enjoy and that would pay them a decent income, they're being lured into £20,000 or £30,000 of debt in the false promise of a well-paid career.

    So the Law Society are doing them a favour, though as has already been pointed out if the would be lawyers can't work out for themselves that they're wasting their time they aren't bright enough to be lawyers anyway.

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  • Is this not the same Law Society which is in favour of abolishing the training contract to flood the market with LPC passers?

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  • Ask a candidate for the legal profession to define "justice" and distinguish between "customer" and "client" and you may be able to identify the Stephen Frys and the T.V. newsreader calibre candidates. I suspect the majority of the later will have better CVs.
    It is the T.V. newreader candidates (Natasha Kaplinsky excepted) that modern legal services will need in the years to come.

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  • I have average A-Levels, a below average degree (2:2) from a Noddy University. I secured a training contract with a National Firm and now aged 32, am a Partner in a Regional Firm.
    This is all about personality. If one has an abundance of drive and ambition (and a bit of technical ability) one will get very far in this profession.The art of bullshit needs to be learned in these tough times.
    The Law Society needs to back off.

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  • Whilst I may not like the tone of City Gent's post I have to agree with the sentiment. We have a ridiculous situation in which huge numbers of students are going to university with very poor grades. If a student cannot succeed at further education then they should not be going onto higher education, except where there are mitigating circumstances. I find it frankly insulting that students with CCC (sometimes lower) are going to universities and coming out with a 2:1, the exact same grade as someone else who has entered university with AAA. I also find it horrific that I have many friends going to do law degrees with CCC and below and thinking that they will get decent law jobs. Universities will happily take them on, knowing full well that these students have ambitions that are frankly unattainable - these universities are literally ripping off these students.

    I went to a rather poor (academically in particular) state school yet managed to receive good grades and go to a top university - university, like a career in law, should be for the academic elite regardless of background. What we need are less places, but increased support for those who come from less than conventional background (ie quality not quantity).

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  • Interesting.

    But, why not introduce a straight forward system like in the USA?

    You sit for a bar exam, and you are done. In this way, we do away with the LPC's and BVC's so as to allow all who have done law to qualify and compete thereafter, on a fair plain?

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  • As a UK citizen/US lawyer who works in the US, it seems to me that the problem isn't too many law grads and not enough jobs. We have many more lawyers per capita over here than in England, and yet it is still considered a great field to qualify into. The ABA and state bar associations would never dream of publically discouraging people from going to law school. The payoff - even if you don't get one of the better jobs - is still a good 3/4x what you'd make without a law degree, and the lifetime premium is still that much more so as to easily justify law school debt. Many "jobless" law grads are still able to find contract work making anywhere from $30-50/hr depending on city. It's better and more satisfying and carries much more potential that stocking shelves at the local supermaket for $8/hr!

    The problem in the UK isn't a lack of legal work. There is a demand for legal services. However, the qualification route is too staggered. Here in the US law school is just 3 years and once in it is pretty much guaranteed that you will qualify as a lawyer, since provided you graduate you can take the bar exam, and if you pass the bar exam you are immediately admitted/called and get a license/practising certificate which has no restrictions whatsoever.

    In contrast, it takes 6 (more like 9) years to qualify in the UK and various people have to make decisions about you along the way. First, you need to get into a good law degree program. Second, you then have to get accepted on the LPC. Third, a firm then has to offer you a training contract. Fourth, they must then offer you an NQ position. Fifth, you need to last in that job at least 3 years before all restrictions are removed from your practising certificate. It is only at 3 PQE that you are really a full fledged lawyer in your own right.

    Malpractice insurance is almost 5-10x what it is in the US. Practising certificate fees are about 5x. Then there is 15-7.5% VAT on services. Everything from legal training to legal practice is so over regulated.

    My insurance is $900/year, my license is $350/yr, and there's no tax on legal services. I couldn't find a great job after graduating from law school in the US. However, that didn't stop me making $100 for every will, $700 for every straightforward divorce, or $1,000 for every minor criminal case I took on. Even without good job offers I was able to pull down about $70,000 after income taxes and minimal overhead.

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  • Correct Anonymous, plan is to abolish the TC and fill firms with halfwit graduates/LPC passers who haven't got a clue, pushing professional indemnity policy premiums through the roof...

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  • Jack Vance@8:15, says it all. The best post so far.
    And for those of you who think that Law studies should be for the elite, you are utterly wrong. As an academic discipline - yes. As a vocation, read Richard Susskind and learn some humility.

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  • The job market as a whole is suffering. If law is your passion, if it is truly what you want to do with your life, then nothing can stand in your way.

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  • Isn't this just a shrewd move by the Law Society (on behalf of we lawyers) to ensure that we keep supply of lawyers sufficiently low and demand sufficiently high in order to return to the pay-hikes we saw during the period from 2005 to 2008? Hear Hear! ;)

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  • How about we launch an online petition to the government to abolish once and for all the utterly useless SRA and put an end to its complete mismanagement of everything it seems to touch.

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  • Here's a better idea for a petition - abolish the GDL for anyone under the age of thirty. That way, if you want to be a lawyer you'll have to be prepared to work for it instead of converting after sleepwalking through a Basket Weaving degree.

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  • To Anonymous | 28-Jul-2009 6:45 pm, you are missing the point entirely. Yes, you may have very good A level grades, you may have done well in the GDL and have attended a good redbrick, and yes it does sound like you are a very good student. However, as harsh as this may sound, there are students who have excellent A level grades and have gone to one of the more elite universities (I am not merely speaking of Oxbridge). In this current climate in which TC are scarce there are simply better candidates and what might once have seemed like a "great candidate" now seems like an "average candidate". Not to belittle your talent or intelligence, but I would take a long hard look at why you were rejected so early from the firm you mention.

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  • Well it's about time!

    I'm sick of seeing tv dramas, movies and ads from Universities and the like encouraging young people from all walks of life to become lawyers.

    The law is not for everyone, for every background nor is it for every level of academic performance.

    The big firms don't even want law degrees - they want people with degrees in beard growing or interpretive dance from Oxford or Cambridge or people who went to at least one private school (even if that amounted to the windswept penal colony off the Norfolk coast beloved of John Mortimer's Rumpole).

    The provinces risk blindness in cooing and fondling their wretched selves over the prospects of harvesting ex city refugees (they don't want Bash Street Kids applying to join them in their Hyacincth Bucket quest to join the magic circle) and as for the small firms?

    Let's face it, the small firms don't appeal to anyone who came into the profession looking to buy at least one yacht and to bed Tara Rara Tompkinson or Paris Hilton before settling down into a stately home so they could nip next door to borrow sugar or a tin of Ronseal from Paul McCartney or his ex.

    Cluttering the profession with PC encouraged applicants with 3rd class degrees from Battersea Yoof Centre is doing no one any favours.

    The middle classes outnumber the working classes not because of some Dickensian unfairness but because middle class culture is geared towards education and graduate study while your average tower block bunch are only interested in bling, booze and securing bail!

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  • Omni Consumer Products - abolish the GDL for anyone under 30?! What rubbish. So in your world if someone got a 1st in a science degree and developed a passion for IP law they would be stopped from doing the GDL? Utter nonsense.

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  • Unless you are some sort of saddo that gets a major hard on by working mega long hours, enjoys knit picking over silly points and genuinely prefers reading Hansard reports over anything else, the Law Society should be encouraging students to look beyond the cash and go and do something more worthwhile and fun instead of pursuing a legal career. If in doubt, tell them to read Bleak House - it applies as much today (irrespective of the Woolf reforms - yawn) as it did back in Dickens's time.

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  • As someone who is a week or so away from accepting an offer to change careers and study a degree in Law at Oxford Brookes, this news is certainly concerning.

    Is this warning aimed at the lower achieving bracket of students who are lack luster in their approach and ability, or is this something all law students should be concerned with - even those with exemplary results and references?

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  • whatever

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  • Oh dear, oh dear! What frighteningly arrogant and unpleasant creatures you baby would-be lawyers seem to be. As a female Oxbridge graduate who has reached the top of another profession as difficult if not more so to get into than law, who tuned in to this item to look for advice for my son, I am genuinely surprised at the superior and unsympathetic attitudes betrayed. I suppose in some cases it must be disappointment speaking, but it is very unappealing. Can one be a genuinely successful lawyer with such a lack of empathy with the situation of others?

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  • Dear 'Anonymous | 29-Jul-2009 5:09 pm'.
    Thankfully we're not all like that, and despite many of the narrow-minded responses above, it's possible to succeed notwithstanding having an unorthodox background and be a better candidate/trainee/lawyer for it.
    For what it's worth, I don't like most other lawyers either, but I already have plenty of friends. I only read the comments sections of this site for amusement. At times, it's quite compelling.
    Best of luck to your son. With employers like these commenting here, he's going to need it.

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  • The Law Society make this far more difficult for themselves than they need to. Where a student (such as Eleanor - see article) has completed the LPC, they are then barred from qualifying as a solicitor via the 'earn as you learn' ILEX qualification route, and must complete a training contract. Those who have not completed the LPC are not so barred. My wife ran into this problem, and was left in limbo for three years before securing a training contract and (happily, for her) obviating the need for a battle on this point.

    Simply removing this rather puzzling obstacle to an alternative means of qualifying as a solicitor would give rise to many more determined, experienced solicitors qualifying by a less risky (and possibly more worthy) means and by their own pluck and courage. I wonder whether the Law Society has considered this? Is it a demarcation issue between LS and ILEX?

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  • I want to make another comment. The lawyer job losses are very sector specific. Just like here in the US, it is mostly corporate and real estate lawyers who are being laid off. And we all know that it's company stock and real estate that experience bubbles and subsequent bursts. Anyone who has studied company law knows this. Ditto real estate law.
    The Law Society should not be discouraging people from becoming lawyers per se. There's huge demand in other areas, many of which pay well, like insolvency and litigation. A bear market has little effect on the need for family, criminal, and estate planning/probate lawyers. By all means warn students that getting into the top firms is difficult and more so when those firms largely depend on high end corporate work fueled by stock and housing booms. But if you have a 2.1 from a decent uni and interest in and aptitude for legal practice, then you should get a position somewhere if you are more open minded and less short term focused.
    Seems to me that almost every UK law grad wants a TC at a big MC, City or US firm in London doing mostly corporate type work. Sure the starting salaries are much better than in the provinces, high street, niche practices etc, but give the attrition rate at large firms and their exposure to market volatility, it may be that those who started at smaller firms with more diversified practice areas will actually still be in a job, paid better, and more content than those who fled or were laid off from big firm corporate practice.
    Someone who is focused will always do well in whatever legal practice area they choose. I don't care if it's criminal law. The top criminal lawyers in England make very good money. Become an expert in whatever field you choose and you'll do very well. There are partners with 5PQE at small firms who make the same as and more than associates of the same PQE at the large firms, work better hours, and have a more diverse practice.

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  • When one cuts throught the arrogance and vitriol of CityGent's and Krusty's comments, there is some sense. Too many university graduates whether law or not are saturating the legal jobs market and its is therefore hardly surprising that in a time when MC, SC City and National firms are refusing applications en masse for future training contracts that unemployment figures and levels of personal debt are spiralling. The Law Society is in a somewhat difficult position given the inherrent institutional and cultural problems innititiated by New Labour. Whilst eduation is a right and not a privillege, university is probably not the right option for someone with lower grades. This applies more to studying law than perhaps any other discipline (medicine apart). For many graduating this year and next, firms will quickly sift through their applications and for a large proportion, the inevitable dissapointment will ensue. Its unfair. But so's life.

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  • I have average a levels from a average university and yet I am still applying for training contracts. I think people need to be very realistic. Vacation days are all very nice but actual awareness and experience of what you want to do is key in the current climate. I now have 2 years commercial insurance experience and also valuable contacts in the London insurance market. I recommend anyone who truly wants be a solicitor and didn't get their first or doesn't have the family connections, get off your ass and get creative!!!

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  • Just as I was pondering my career options post-degree, whether to apply for the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or do a Masters, or pursue something else entirely, having been made to feel like I wasn't good enough and would never get anywhere by a law lecturer who shall remain anonymous (not just me I hasten to add, he told an entire lecture theatre this), I was very recently reminded that I should never give up my dream. This being a dream, a vision, a passion, call it what you will, that I've had for several years. I've always wanted to study law, to get into the profession, to make a difference. I'd never envisaged doing anything else. But then I was told I was naïve. Maybe. But I'd rather be naïve than attempting to enter the legal profession because I was being seduced by the idea of the Magic Circle, the mega salaries and the extravagant bonuses. I've never been interested in working in the elitist firms and earning a fortune. I want to work in the legal profession for truly altruistic reasons. I want to help people. I want to make a difference. And to be honest, I'm not bothered if I'm not making a killer fortune.
    The Law Society have some legitimate reasons in trying to dissuade potential students and applicants from embarking on a career in law. I know there is a recession and that lawyers across different sectors are being laid off, and that training contracts have been made even more scarce, and as a result of this, it's going to get increasingly harder to progress from a degree to a career. Fair enough, I know it's expensive. Degrees and professional qualifications are not cheap. Students need to be realistically aware of the debt involved. But what about those of us that have that dream, that vision, that passion of having a career in law? The comments on the above article certainly made for interesting reading.

    Anonymous | 28-Jul-2009 7:46 pm
    "Now it is open to anyone with £10,000 and a dream. It is a shame all round."

    Yes it is a god damn shame that those of us with a real passion for the Law are being dissuaded, discouraged and shoved out of the door with not so much as a backward glance. Who wants a generic work force? Surely passion and dreams are the keys to having an amazing career that we care about and genuinely approach with enthusiasm?

    Saying that, students are constantly being fed the idea that the route to a career is a rosy path. Degree, LPC, training contract (TC) and ta-da you've made it. Sorry, but these days it's just not that simple. To believe that this is the only route to becoming a solicitor is misleading. I for one, thought that was the only way. But then my eyes were truly opened. There are alternative routes. Having the LPC qualification under your belt does not guarantee you a training contract. However, at Law School, the idea of undergoing formal training with the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) is much under-publicized. It's a much more affordable route, and you don't have to have a 2 year training contract to complete at the end of it. And you can enter it at any stage, whether that's without any professional qualifications, with a law degree, or with or without the LPC. This is definitely a route I am going to further research.

    Some of the more positive comments on the above mentioned story are more in line with my way of thinking.

    Anonymous | 28-Jul-2009 10:13 pm
    "This is all about personality. If one has an abundance of drive and ambition (and a bit of technical ability) one will get very far in this profession. The art of bullshit needs to be learned in these tough times. The Law Society needs to back off."

    Anonymous | 29-Jul-2009 10:45 am
    "The job market as a whole is suffering. If law is your passion, if it is truly what you want to do with your life, then nothing can stand in your way."

    Jack Vance | 30-Jul-2009 0:30 am
    "But if you have a 2.1 from a decent uni and interest in and aptitude for legal practice, then you should get a position somewhere if you are more open minded and less short term focused. Someone who is focused will always do well in whatever legal practice area they choose. I don't care if it's criminal law. The top criminal lawyers in England make very good money. Become an expert in whatever field you choose and you'll do very well."

    If you take anything from this, it should be that your dream is the one thing that nobody can take from you. Go after it, chase it, pursue it, make it real, make it happen, no matter who puts you down or the obstacles that may stand in your way.

    Anonymous | 30-Jul-2009 8:56 am
    "I recommend anyone who truly wants be a solicitor and didn't get their first or doesn't have the family connections, get off your ass and get creative!!!"

    Believe in yourself, believe in your dream and have the courage to fight for it. Stand your ground, fight your corner and say your piece. You will get there in the end if you want it enough. Your passion is worth striving for.

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  • I think it is a good idea to warn of the dangers, as long as it does not give too much of a detriment to the profession. I studied my degree at a 'non respected' University, and then went onto complete my BVC. There have always been difficulties in getting pupillage and or training contracts, this will never change. What is important is the social skills as well as academic skills of a person. More often than not, someone with life experience can do far better than someone that has been fed by their parents. Further, if a student wants a career in law, nothing will stop their determination.

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  • I think what needs to happen is LPC numbers should be restricted to roughly match the number of annual training contracts, in much the same way that number of places on teaching courses are decided. There is no doubt that too many institutions are currently using, especially GDL, and some LPC courses merely to make money. Entry standards should rise for GDL courses, and institutions should stop deceiving people from low ranked universities, with poor alevels and a poor degree, that they have a chance of earning £100,000 a year as a solicitor in the city.

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  • It is completely incorrect to state that the Diploma in Legal Practice at Scottish universities which offer it do not accept candidates who have not secured a training contract. May I recommend that the author does some research.

    From the Law Society of Scotland's Diploma web page:

    "It should also be noted that gaining a place on, or successful completion of, a Diploma course does NOT guarantee a training contract or future employment in the legal profession in Scotland."

    http://www.lawscot.org.uk/training/Diploma.aspx

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  • Another thing. If there are too many people coming out of the LLB/LPC, then why are firms up in arms over the government's plans to make it harder to recruit lawyers from overseas? Many firms poach overseas lawyers straight out of law school (or shortly thereafter) to come to London to do work which could easily be done by a UK lawyer. I guess the firms are saved the expense of training them, but many (not all) of these lawyers come from jurisdictions where one qualifies straight out of law school without having done a 2 year training period. However, these same firms are reluctant to support a reform of UK legal education so that it becomes a postgrad degree without the need for a training contract. What gives?

    These firms are constantly saying that they need to recruit from overseas - even for UK based roles which are not foreign legal consultant roles i.e to practise English law - because there just aren't enough people coming out of UK law schools!

    For some reason UK law firms (much like the medical profession) would prefer to hire qualified overseas lawyers, thereby evading the expense of training them, and shafting UK law students! Even though UK legal training (6 years) is some of the most extensive there is in the commonlaw world which involves 2 years on-the-job experience. Meanwhile, UK law students are largely barred from working in those countries which export lawyers to the UK. It's a very one way street.

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  • I worked for various firms of solitors for over 30 years, starting in a small general practice and then sort training in civil litigation.
    Many of those contributing to this article seem to have lost sight of the fact that places in solicitors offices are not readily available or they need staff to do a highly qualified job.
    A very important piece of evidence has not been
    referred to namely circulars that were sent out by the Law Society questioning its members about their state of mind to being a solicitor in private practise. The last article I read revealed that over 90% would like a job in another industry. Many of them regretted having qualified as a solicitor.
    A recent televisiton program dealt with the difficulties newly admitted counsel were having in getting a tenancy. Those who did not get a tenancy were several hundred.
    There are simply far too many students who chose a career in law without making any enquiries or taking advice upon what specialised knowledge they will need to persuade solicitors to offer them a job.
    At fee earners meetings and privately I criticised my principal for employing staff who were low grade and who should never have been on his pay roll. I do give him credit for giving men and women from working clasws backgrounds the opportunity of pursuing a career in law or merely providing them with a job. But, when it became apparent that they were not suitable for his firm he accused me of not giving them a fair chance. Two of the junior staff simply disappeared and we did not hear from them again. There was a career for the young lad but he told me in private law was not for him.
    Another bad case was of a father pushing his son into a carear in law when he was totally and wholly unsuitable for that kind of work. I was given the task of taking him out to lunch whatever the cost and to ask that he does not ask for a reference or make contact with the firm. I elicited that his father was the MD of of a successful company and wanted an in house solicitor. the guy had a law degree. Eventually I persuaded the guy that his father had done him a dis-service and he should look for another career. He returned to his job as a manager in a telephone call centre.
    In another case he employed a female solicitor who had re-deployed to the midlands. After 3-4 months I asked my principal to review her position because I had formed the view she would never make the grade. Almost 6 years later, my principal arrived in my room with a very worried look on his face - he had just received a letter from another firm of solicitors with a claim in negligence for £l.5m arising out of a property transaction. She was asked to remain on garden leave and did not return. The way in which my principal corresponded with her left a lot to be desired.
    I had the inenviable task of taking over a large number of her files and the quality of her worked merited 10 marks out of a hundred. One District Judge gave me a tough time and in one particular case he apologized to my adversary, saying it was with regret he had to make a order against his client. It then became evident that in her careert with my principal, she never appeared before a district judge. I came across files were she had instructed counsel to appear on a county court summons for directions time after time again.
    Therewere other similar instances and I ultimately adopted the stance that he/she goes or I do.
    In the 32 years I conducted civil litigation, mostly at the behest of insurance companies. I had the misfortune to come across well over 100 legal practitioners who should have been in other employment and a few of them were cirsuit judges and district judges.

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  • Jack Vance, you make several good points. However I do not believe that in the US the route to law is any less fraught with obstacles than in the UK. Maybe ultimately obtaining a license after having completed study is less regulated / centralised (ie. you just do the bar exam and don't need to have completed a training contract). However, it takes seven years and much expense - a 4 year undergrad degree, the LSAT exams, then a 3 year law degree, which is usually incredibly expensive. You start earning and income after *seven* years. In contrast, in the UK, you start earning an income after just four years - after 3 years doing your law degree and 1 year doing the LPC. I would think that law is just as hard to break into for low income students in the US.

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  • It's not just difficult for those with "average A levels and noddy degrees from Noddy universities". It might be difficult even for those with stellar A Levels and first class degrees from top universities. Like another poster said, personality, drive and people skills count! Intellect and technical ability is not the be-all and end-all.

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  • This may sound harsh but students that take the risk of taking on substantial debts to enter a saturated profession can only blame themselves.

    The only benefit to some students is that they may learn a significant lesson and would be unlikely to repeat the mistake in the future.

    My advice to those that are in substantial debt without a a TC would be to declare yourselves bankrupt and get rid of your debts.

    After that, they can start over and pick a less risky career. Ideally young people should look to move into what is in demand.

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  • this may then be a good time for those with current training and no paying job yet to apply their newly qualified legal skills into a socially positive context
    if anyone is interested in working on the Forensics of Legal Fraud, please get in touch!
    bradmeyer@collaboration.co.uk

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  • Mr "Reid". I have showed enthusiasm and have completed lots of work experience. I even lecture at university part time and yet I am still unable to even have a whiff of pupillage. What more can I do?
    I have undertaken a multitude of jobs and am more than able to show that I have a variety of skills. The chance you talk of must be very very small indeed.

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