Law Society to students: legal career may be too risky

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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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  • I have just completed the LPC part-time, having done the GDL part-time before that, on top of my first degree. My university law careers dept has been constantly encouraging and supportive, but I feel strongly that the downside was not laid out in stark enough terms from the outset. The reality is that I'm 42, with a family, from a non-legal background and facing the worst recession for decades. Admittedly the last item was not foreseen when I started my law studies, but at no point did careers officers or tutors advise me to slow down or take another year to think about it before handing over more cheques. Four years on and with a debt like an albatross, I'm punch-drunk with rejection letters and (so far) continuing with my previous career. I thought I was under no illusions about the difficulties of qualifying when I started (three family members have qualified), I knew it would be very tough and my age was against me, but this road just seems to get steeper and steeper. My advice is to be wary - in this business having strong academics, bags of commitment and great transferable skills seems to be no substitute for 6 months' paralegal experience. And good luck finding that without 6 month's paralegal experience first. And good luck finding that without 6 month's paralegal experience first. And good luck finding that without 6 month's paralegal experience first. Etc. etc.

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  • Isn't this simply the Law Society doing what the FSA insists on regarding warnings around investments?

    "The value of your investment may go up or down"

    That is to say, by investing £10k in the LPC, you may not get a training contract and hence a career in law at the end of it.

    Seems like sensible advice to me!

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  • I am one of those people who has a law degree and the LPC and absolutely no prospect of ever becoming a lawyer. I am in an insurmountable amount of debt in addition to being about as employable as a school leaver with the earning prospects of one. I'm nearly 26 and haven't managed to start my life properly. I'm really angry about it. The sad thing about it is I would make a good lawyer too. I intend to campaign to have these debts written off. Thinking only professionalism equals success, I tried to get ahead by pursuing a career in law but have ended up so far behind. It's not right. Why should I have to have the stigma of being a bankrupt attached to me if that is the only way to cancel the mountains of debt I have aquired? I have never been financially irresponsible or reckless in my life.

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  • This is only going to lead to more institutional discrimination in the legal profession. I pity the future generations.

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  • I am about to enter in to my final year of the LLB course at a mediocre university and believe students today are made fully aware that a 2:1 and the LPC are not enough to ensure becoming a solicitor. Since my first day at my University I have been made aware that it is what else you bring to the table that secures you your place, tons of work experience is not enough especially when not in the sectors of the law for which you are applying, it is continually re-inforced throughout the course that you must offer more than what is written on the degree certificate at the end of it all, it is all about personality and dedication.

    Those students who do not gain the necessary extras are those who are not dedicated enough. A student who really wants to suceed will do their research and should quite easily discover that it is a bad time to be entering into the law, with the economy the way it is every school leaver is looking for a career in which there will always be opportunities and the law offers this. There is no need to not allow those under thirty to do the GDL as this would indeed cancel out the opportunities for some of those people who are very intellectual and do indeed have more to bring to the table than some unaware and unenthusiastic student who scraped a 2:1 from a low standing university with no extra-curricular interest.

    On the whole the system does not need to change, if anything it ensures that the law is not easy to enter in to. Any student will inform you of this - me especially having friends who are studying for less intense courses such as Events Management and Disabilities Studies who all get to enjoy the freedom of university while i am confined to the library a lot more often than them. Any student with the commitment and will power to truly want to suceed will do and therefore there is no need to change anything.

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  • You cannot simply say abolish the GDL or law degree is simply the best. A "law degree" cannot be the same if someone has studied it at Oxford and another at Manchester metropolitan. What about those who have studied good subjects like history, politics and economics from a top 10 uni but have allways wanted to go into law. Are you seriously saying someone at an ex poly should come before these?

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  • Don't study the law, irrespective of your academic record to date, if you can identify yourself as being one or more of the towns people in the film High Plains Drifter starring Clint Eastwood. The reviews of the film I have read are quite superficial and may even indicate that the reviewer has not watched the film. If you fully undestand the film then perhaps you are QC material?

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  • The whole recruitment system is flawed and needs to be overhauled. Law is tough and demanding and the recruitment and application system should be tough and demanding.
    The problem is too many people who are simply not good enough are allowed to progress too far down the process incurring substantial amounts of debt before realising they will never get a training contract, and too many people who really have very little interest in being lawyers (and are often not very good) are able to get training contracts because they went to the right schoold and mummy/daddy know the right people.
    The fact that LPC providers run themselves as businesses encouraging as many people to enrol on their expensive courses as possible does not help.
    I think the US system has a lot of merit to it in that it cuts the weak links off at a much earlier stage.
    Possible solution - you can't do the LPC without a training contract. You can only apply for a training contract once you have graduated. How you fill up any year in the middle is up to the individual. At least this way, people don't burn themselves with debt and may only lose one or two years as opposed to several if you go down the GDL/LPC/Paralegal/give up route.

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  • While I appreciate the comments that those who are intelligent enough to work in the legal profession are intelligent enough to work out there are tough times ahead, I think there is much to be said about illustrating the severity of the current situation (although whether this is the role of the Law Society I am not convinced).
    As someone who has just completed the LPC, have studied the GDL and done 3 years at uni and am yet to secure a training contract, I am in the (un)fortunate position of understanding the harsh realities of pursuing a legal career in these tough times. Having gained a 2.1 degree from a red brick uni, a commendation in my GDL, a distinction in my LPC, formal work experience from a magic circle and a regional firm, not to mention informal experience at a sole practitioner and even a barristers chambers to explore my interest in advocacy, I am consistently being taken to final interview and then missing out at the last hurdle.
    Brilliant feedback from law school careers advisors, Magic Circle firms and national firms alike does not decrease my sense of annoyance and anxiety as my debt increases daily by the interest I cannot earn enough in my temp job to pay off. I have informed both family and friends that if my training contract interviews this summer (to commence training contracts in Sept 2011) do not come to fruition I am going to have to swallow my pride (and my debt filled tears) and embark on an entirely different career if I am ever to have a hope of getting myself out of the dire financial straits I am currently in.
    And a word of caution for those thinking the situation will improve - talk of the economy picking up in the years to come resulting in an increase in available jobs needs to be taken with caution. Not only will the number of students applying for a "prestigious, well paid" career remain undoubtedly high regardless of warnings, you will also be competing with those already qualified for these jobs. And if you are competing against someone already qualified you are at a distinct disadvantage - not only does the firm know what they are getting qualification wise, qualified applicants are likely to have at least a couple of years of work experience, and better yet? Firms don't have to fork out the £15k fees associated with taking a risk on someone yet to qualify from law school.

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  • To the chap who posted above about not getting a training contract.
    This illustrates the point that only those who have secured a training contract should be allowed to progress to studying the LPC.
    If one undertake the costs of the LPC without a training contract then that individual accepts that it is more likely than not that he/she will end up as employable as a school leaver.

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