Law Society to students: legal career may be too risky

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  • To the chap who wrote:
    "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"
    You are financially irresponsible for completing the LPC without a training contract. If the stigma of bankruptcy is the only way you will learn to be financially responsible then it is probably the best way forward.
    At the end of the day, you knew the risks of completing the LPC without a training contract yet you still proceeded. Now you should accept the consequences of your short sighted and irresponsible beahaviour
    How could you ever be in a position to hold office as a solicitor and advise businesses when you can't even judge your own irresponisble behaviour?

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  • So according to the article, there were 7000 LPC passers last year and 6000 training contracts available this year- on the face of it, those are not bad odds, (although those figures do not take account of past year LPC applicants who are still competing for a contract.)

    As someone who as yet has had no success in securing a training contract, I think many of us make the process harder for ourselves by all competing for the prestigious London firms.

    The question we must ask is- Do I want to be a lawyer? - and NOT- How much money do I want to make? (notwithstanding the pressing debt we're all keen to pay off) In these times especially, being realistic about the ferocity of the competition out there and being open-minded about what smaller firms might have to offer us is key.

    I agree with everyone who has mentioned the importance of experience and tenacity. One thing I would say is the seeming impossibility of gaining paralegal work experience without previous paralegal work experience. It's the same old 'catch 22' situation where serious creativity is needed.

    I would very much welcome the Scottish system where a student cannot take the LPC unless he/she has a training contract. There is a similar system for teachers and PGCEs. I think it's also important for the ILEX route to get some publicity. It seems the only ones who might lose out here would be the law schools themselves.

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  • I'm an almost 4yr PQE Private Client solicitor. If I was starting out now, with the benefit of what I know now, would I go through the process of qualification again?

    No.

    I'm still in debt from the LPC. I *would* have paid this off in June-ish, but in January my boss turned round and told us that we were going to be working a 4 day week from the start of February. No discussion, no consultation. My mother paid off the remainder of my LPC loan for me at that point, but now I still owe her - and I have no idea when I will have the money to pay her.
    During this time, various annual bills have cropped up for the house I was encouraged to buy on a Northern Rock "Together" mortgage - I couldn't afford those, but house insurance is one of those pesky little conditions of the mortgage (and the lease), and so my dad, who is a pensioner, has loaned me the money to pay that and various other bills.

    I am in debt up to my eyeballs - but bankruptcy would lose me my house and lead to instant strike off (well, it'd actually probably be at least a year before the SDT got round to it and then fleeced me for the costs, but you know where I'm coming from).

    I am, quite frankly, very badly paid. I am never going to get a job at a good firm paying a good salary, because I have a weird degree from a 'mickey mouse university' and poor A Level results (badly timed parental divorce). My law results, by the way, are great - but big firms don't/can't/ won't see that and so I am stuck with small firms where the partners just seem to want to extract as much money in drawings in the shortest time possible, to the detriment of the staff and the firm's development.

    I am, quite frankly, very close to throwing in the towel - but what else can I do? My 'skills' are so specialised, and the economic situation is just so bad, and I don't want to leave 'the provinces' for the horror of London - there are very few to no good jobs here, and everything half decent has high application rates. I also feel as if I HAVE to stick with it, as I can't afford to re-train to do anything else (which is upsetting, as I actually do now have a good idea of what I'd like to do).

    I would say to someone who was thinking of a law career - take a very long, very hard, very honest look at yourself and your situation - and then go off and train to be a plumber/electrician/painter & decorator - they're much more fun, and you'll probably be better paid!

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  • What is sad about the plight of applicants is that they are approaching a career in law as if they were entering a profession instead of a glorified sales career.

    A purported profession can only justify calling itself a profession if it sees itself as under a moral duty to perpeutuate itself through the deliberate advancement of new applicants regardless of background.

    This incarnation of "lawyers" is not a profession - the moral obligation has been cynically discarded, the equity ladder has been pulled up and there is no moral imperative to bring on the next generation.

    Market forces is given as the reason - greed is the real imperative.

    The traditional business model has not failed because it didn't work but because it was not allowed to work because it cut too deeply into the margins of the fat cats who have sold the profession kite mark for a few extra bob.

    Solicitors cannot now expect any professional support network or any financial standing in their practices.

    All they can expect is to be worked to death for salaries way below what seven years of study should be paying and the ever present fear that they are ever more closely compared to paralegals paid a fraction of the price (but who charge clients for a professional status they do not have).

    The Legal Services Bill's greatest justification for undermining the profession was the profession itself. It tried and failed to push the "dilution of quality" argument as its main defence but had its skirts pulled up to show that the majority of legal work is in fact done by unskilled, half trained clerks anyway.

    The fat cats response to this charge?

    Oh, let's do away with the traditional salary system; let's introduce a "eat what you kill" remuneration scheme where you get paid a basic and a commission if you exceed your ludicrously overestimated target.

    Lawyers are the worst employers in the market place: with the worst track record of compliance with employment law, the worst record of fairness in equality profiling, salary remuneration and employee support and you are more likely to want to shoot yourself or drink yourself to death in this profession than the guy that had to ride the bonnet of a land rover in Helmund province.

    How will any of this encourage the underprivileged to enter the profession?

    They'd be better of going down to Everest and signing up to sell windproof double glazing for a living.

    At least they're honest about what to expect from the job.

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  • Reading the various posts on this topic all seem to suggest to me that the problem has no solution.

    Let's consider the problem carefully.

    Essentially too many young people flock to the legal profession because of misguided ideas about their prospects and what the profession has to offer.

    This ultimately leads to market saturation which in turn leads to reduced opportunity, wage deflation and poor working conditions.

    Given that there does not seem to be any sign that demand from students is abating, the problem will only get worse.

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  • Who says A levels are are a great measure of intelligence? I was crap at A levels because I wasn't good at writing 10 stupid essays with a blunt pencil in 3 hours. I got CCD.in 1991. I was written off as a dunce, and went to a crappy red brick university near London that didn't one any doors for me. I left the UK in 1995.

    Yes, I was awful at A levels but then found out, over 10 yeas later, that I was rather good at the LSAT multiple choice logic exam which US law schools use to determine admissions. Nearly twenty years after I messed up my A levels I finished in the top 20% of my law school class in the US from a Top 20 school, was recruited by a respectable firm, and have passd two bar exams.

    A levels are just one way of measuring intelligence or aptitude. It's like measuring whether everyone is a good athlete by having them run the 100 meters. "Sorry Cram, Ovett, and Coe, you are crap atheletes, perhaps you should pursue law!!???"

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  • The legal profession is as elitist as it is intellectually and financially demanding. Some professions will always be elitist, because the cost of training a solicitor or barrister will for many be prohibitive.
    It is impossible as a matter of simplest economics for legal education to ever be accessible to everyone in a capitalist country. That is because:
    a) the solicitors and professionals who train lawyers will always want to receive salaries above the average salary for the rest of the society; so
    b) if suddenly everyone in the society got richer and could afford an LPC/BVC at their current prices, law schools would raise the price of legal education to the point where just the right number of people to satisfy the market's demand for solicitors/barristers would be able to afford a legal education.
    This relationship is nothing novelt and it is a consequence of capitalism. Truth be told, capitalism inherently creates elites - the free market itself creates elites.
    However, note that before we start criticising the free market for making the legal profession elitist, the more the government regulates the market, the further away we move from a free market economy. That said, in pure communism, the legal profession would be very accessible, but would offer salaries not exceeding those of factory workers.
    So, let's be reasonable in our criticisms. Jumping to conclusions is not the right behaviour for a lawyer!

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  • Gregory,
    I would agree with what you say in principle.
    Given that law is so incredibly oversubscribed then it is the case that the price of the LPC is far too low as the supply is far exceeding the demand.
    The LPC should be a minimum of 20,000 with a 1,000 added every year until demand roughly equals the supply.

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  • it is scandalous for the Gvt to leave the provision of a Tc to private law firms who may chose to sacrifice merit for privilege in their intake. It is also scandalous to let providers of the LPC to churn out 000s of graduates without any prospect of securing a TC. Its a profit driven exploitative business. LPC providers like the BPP are ripping off naive students. The gvt shud mandate all LPC and BVC course providers with securing a TC for every student whose £10,000 they pocket. Some, e.g BPP must use part of that £10.000 to set up Legal Clinics to provide TC to their students whilst providing free legal services to communities where the colleges are situated. In S. Africa every LPC student takes a TC at a Legal Clinic run by the Uni that provides the LPC, so that every student who pays their hard earned LPC fee is guaranteed to become an Attorney/Solicitor on graduation. We are let left vulnerable to the wolves such as the BPP by a Gvt staffed with egg-heads whose main preoccupation is to claim absurd MP's expenses. Fed-up LLB graduate, Northampton.

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  • It seems that the SRA will not admit person to the roll of the solicitors if they have an LPC and wish to qualify as a solicitor using thier work experience through ILEX.
    So you can pay your money to be a FILEX, get your work experience and then be rejected to the roll, because the SRA would like the LPC graduates to continue in the race for a TC with an infinity finishing line for some, regardless of their academic excellence.

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  • There are a lot of law students whining about not being able to secure a TC.
    It's high risk but students know that before they pay for the courses.
    It's the responsibility of the student to determine whether he or she wants to take the risk.
    If I had to decide whether to self fund the LPC today then, of course, I wouldn't do it. It's far too risky. Why would I self fund a course which will more than likely lead to a low paid paralegal job at best?
    However every student has to decide for him/herself.
    If one takes a risk then don't complain if that risk is realised.
    Stop whining and take responsibility for your own risk taking!!

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  • The problem is the Training Contract. It should be abolished. If a person is good enough to get a degree and pass LPC then they should be allowed to set up their oewn business and practice law. The cost of LPC eliminates less wealthy students from the legal profession, the ridiculous bias of selection for Training Contracts then eliminates people from working class backgrounds from the profession. The result? A profession that continues to be the same people from the same elite backgrounds ad inifinitum. Let legal services be a career open to anyone who is competent and let them have to compete in the same way that other service providers have to.

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  • To C E Shepherd
    You miss the point.
    The heart of the problem is that there are too many students chasing too few jobs.
    The solution is not to increase the number of people working in law but to stop people taking silly risks and paying for the LPC themselves.
    Increasing the number of people working in the business does not solve the issue of no jobs.
    What's the point of encouraging people to enter an industry where there is no demand?
    By the way the cost of the LPC does not deter the best candidates because the best candidates are sponsored.
    If you are not sponsored then you shouldn't be doing the LPC because your applications for a training contract have been rejected.
    This problem has been created by desperate student self funding the LPC.
    Solving self funding of the LPC would ensure that supply roughly equals demand. Problem solved.
    In the teaching and medical profession they only take the numbers they need and that's why doctors are not sat around twiddling their thumbs.

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  • LPC and CPE (GDL) become invalid after 7 years. So if you don't get a TC in this time your are out.....this is not well known and not publicised by the Law Society or ILEX. I know I got caught.

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  • To the above post, there is nothing you can do to change supply demand fundamentals.
    The bottom line is there are too many students which means regardless of how hard they all try many of them must fail.
    That's life. As time goes by it will get even harder because every year another load of students are pumped out of the College of Law factory.

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  • Re: Anonymous in response to C E Shepherd
    I agree that the main problem is one of over-supply. However, I would question your assertion that the 'best candidates get sponsorship'. From my own observations and those I know in the profession those from less affluent backgrounds are far less likely to get sponsorship. Also, (and this is not exclusive to law) the enormous competition for training means that those whose families can subsidize unpaid internships and extra-currics stand a much greater chance of gaining said sponsorship.
    Yes, large numbers of students will be rejected, but I suspect that the proportion of less affluent students in that category who actually had the ability to make very able lawyers is growing.
    There is also the matter of institutions being less than candid about the chances of these students. I'm sure this will trigger scoffing, but even those with the requisite intelligence from less affluent backgrounds sometimes do not have the experience and understanding to make a detailed assessment of their chances. I think people underestimate the power of growing up in certain social/economic conditions and how this impacts on the potential candidate.

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  • Jeremy Peters.
    Very true. However that is just a fact of life.
    People from poorer backgrounds do not have access to important information concerning careers.
    This will not change and does not detract from the point that students need to be saved from themselves.
    The problem is going to be compounded by increases in tuition fees.
    The only real benefit to the increase in tution fees is that hopefully it will prompt students to stop and think!!!

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  • CE Shepherd - you seem to be suggesting that people who pass the LPC should be admitted to the Roll and allowed to set up shop as Solicitors on their own, without the need for a Training Contract or any experience of practising law.
    Your idea is unworkable for a number of reasons, as others have pointed out.
    In addition I do not beleive that any PI insurer would seriously contemplate offering insurance in these circumstances.

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