Legal education’s oversupply is unethical

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  • To put matters simply there are two solutions to this problem. Either the Law Society (and, indeed the Bar Council) follows the approach of the GMC and limits legal education so the number of places available at the education stage are proportionate to the number of employment opportunities. Alternatively the approach of the Institute of Chartered Accountants is followed whereby accountants to be undertake a three year training contract which includes all necessary exams. If the medical and accountancy professions can address this issues successfully, we can't we?

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  • ^^
    Your second idea regarding CAs is exactly what I was thinking. Their model is a lot more appealing, especially for non-law students. I have a feeling that law is used by unis as a way of bringing in £££ since it's the default choice for pupils who have good grades but don't know what to do after school.

    In Scotland our law degrees are four years for some reason, then there's the DLP which costs ~£5k and for which there is very little funding. The unis have to start limiting the number of students they take in.

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  • I don't want to seem uncaring, but surely the students also have some responsibility here, to check before embarking on an expensive training course that it is actually likely to lead to a job?

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  • Perhaps the ILEX legal executive qualification should be looked at - especially for those who haven't yet done their LPC? A law grad would be exempt from most of the ILEX exams (they'd still have to do the short Graduate Fast-track Diploma course) plus five years work of a paralegal nature (which most people are doing anyway just to pay the bills! If you qualify as a legal executive - you become a specialist lawyer capable of being a partner of a law firm, district judge - it's no small qualification. If the student is still wanting to go on and become a solicitor, well, they can. So long as their law degree is still within the 7 years deadline, they can take their LPC and so long as they are a legal executive before the end of the LPC, they will be in a position to apply to the SRA for exemption against the training contract. (The SRA recognise legal executives training as they have already 'done their time' in the office already without having to do another 2 years training contract). For those unfortunate LPC graduates who can't get training contracts - use your academic qualifications to be exempt from the ILEX exams, satisfy ILEX you've done their required five years qualifying employment (paralegal work) and at least get yourselves professionally qualfied!!!!! It doesn't stop you still looking for a training contract but it may help if you've got a legal executive qualification on your CV and your firm can use you to charge out more for your services. This may seem a long way around but if you got your timings/exemptions right, you'd be able to qualify as a solicitor via the ILEX route in just over 3 years (if you've already satisfied at least 2 of the 5 years of qualifying employment). Even if a law grad went on to doing the LPC now, and assuming they got the precious training contract, they wouldn't get qualified as a solicitor for 4 years!! Speak to ILEX and find out for yourselves??!! www.ilex.org.uk ....

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  • I agree Simon Sellick and, also possibly uncaring, my first thought was "welcome to the world". No matter what job you're going for, there's always going to be competition - particularly in the current climate. And in response to Rosemary, yes you are right, if people are that desperate to be a lawyer, they'll find a way.

    The days of just walking into a highly-paid cushy job straight from uni are long gone.

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  • I agree this is an oversupply of students chasing training contracts at the moment. I was recently involved in recruiting for a paralegal vacancy. We were inundated with CVs from candidates who had good grades. However, most of the candidates performed badly at interview. The majority of candidates stumbled over why they wanted to work for us and had clearly not done any research. One candidate told us that she was actually interested in working for another team within the same organisation. Another candidate had rearranged her interview time and then turned up late anyway.

    The system is producing too many students who are chasing elusive training contracts but the students need to realise that it takes more than good grades to secure training contracts and paralegal work.

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  • Whilst myths about the profession continue, there will always be a surplus of students.

    My experience of talking to some students is that they are aware of the high risk but are willing to take that risk (so they say) because they are so desperate to be solicitors.

    There's nothing one can do about that.

    Though I think tuition fees at £9,000 per annum should focus the mind more on whether it is viable.

    Though sadly I fear that most students will still think that the fees are worth it because they will earn more.

    Unless regulators step in the situation can not be resolved.

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  • While I agree with the general thrust of the article that there are problems in the legal training sector, it makes several incorrect assumptions:

    1. All undergraduate law students want to be lawyers. An undergrad law degree prepares you for all kinds of things (unlike an undergrad medical degree). I have friends who did law degrees with no intention of becoming lawyers and are very happy as senior civil servants or journalists. I don't see why LLB places need to be cut as there are plenty of careers one can go into after such a degree.

    2. The existence of 15,000 LPC places means there are 15,000 LPC graduates per year. If all LPC providers filled their classes to capacity, there would indeed be 15K students per year, but the same Law Society figures quoted by the author show this is not the case. Further, not all students on the course will pass. I seem to remember seeing figures that the actual number of LPC graduates was less than 10,000. This is still more than the number of training contracts available, but the odds are not quite as grim as the author claims. (Unlike the odds for would-be barristers, which are shocking.)

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  • Surely the worst thing we could do to address the over-supply of law students is to make it really easy to enter the legal profession?

    Oh hang on! That's exactly what people are proposing to do - come on in ILEX lawyers and University Course lawyers!

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  • While I agree that there are universities exploiting aspirational young people, the students do have to take responsibility.

    These uneven odds have existed in Australia for many years. When I qualified, the big firms would each take fewer than 15 trainees a year. The majority of students undertook double degrees (Arts/Law, Commerce/Law, etc) to improve their chances, resulting in 5 years at university. The result? Cut-throat competition, considerably raised standards and solicitors much sought after the by top UK practices. Competition is not all bad news.

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