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Legal education was put under the spotlight at a conference hosted by the Inner Temple last Friday (19 February).
Several controversial issues such as merging the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) were raised by the panel of distinguished speakers, which included Chris Kenny and Baroness Deech DBE, chief executive of the Legal Services Board and chair of the Bar Standards Board respectively.
But the universal concerns of both the panelists and the audience were the increasing cost of legal education and the distinct lack of funding options, and the oversupply of law students, a problem that is more acute for the barristers’ profession with just one in four BPTC students securing pupillage. Indeed, the imbalance between the number of students enrolling on the LPC or BPTC and training contracts or pupillages on offer led the former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer to call for places on the BPTC to be slashed (read more).
A further issue that was raised was the introduction of an aptitude and English language test for the BPTC, which are currently being piloted by the BSB and, according to some of the speakers, are a must to reduce the number of students embarking on the course with very limited chances of gaining a pupillage and to maintain standards in the profession.
Meanwhile, some of the students at the conference said they were worried about the general lack of information that is available to help aspiring lawyers make an informed decision about whether the financial risk is worth taking. One student argued that telling her that she had a 25 per cent chance of securing a pupillage once she’d already handed over a big fat cheque to her BPTC provider was too late. But delegates from of the BSB challenged this point claiming that the regulator publishes plenty of statistics which highlight the oversupply problem.
Indeed, I think the BSB does have a point. There is tonnes of information available, including on Lawyer2B.com, that highlights just how difficult and costly training as a solicitor and barrister can be. I just wish more of you would pay proper attention to it. After all, information is one of the best weapons anyone can deploy.