Milburn: the law is too elitist

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  • The key factor is not class prejudice, or poor advice, or pushy parents, or attitudes amongst those from poorer backgrounds, or misunderstandings about the benefits of education and training. It's just MONEY.

    It costs a lot to qualify as a lawyer these days (or a doctor etc etc). In both cash up front, and opportunity cost in the years taken to do it. In fact, it costs more than it ever did once one takes into account tuition fees for degrees, grossly inflated fees for things like the CPE/GDL and the BVC (especially) and LPC. Ergo only those with a bit behind them, as it were, can afford to take the risk. If you're from a background of pretty humble means, what does university plus law school adding up to, say, £40,000 of debt look like? Pretty unattractive i'd say.

    And this is something which Milburn et al have only made worse - so what's he making a fuss about?

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  • for crying out loud, and so yet another class war discussion ensues. There is no excuse (or at the very most exceptional cases where there is an excuse) for those with sufficient ability to get any top job in law, regardless of 'class' (a redundant and simplistic categorisation in any case). Congrats on yet another labour government report aimed at pacifying the raging backbenchers as well as masking the deeper rooted problem of incompetence at the heart of downing street. Bet they wish they would have saved banning fox hunting for a rainy day now

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  • "College of Law chief executive Nigel Savage called for a radical shake-up of the training contract system, which he said favoured middle class families with the income to fund education and the social networks to access work experience and summer vacation schemes."

    Couldn't agree more.

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  • Legal education and the Law Society/SRA are at the heart of this problem. The cost of legal education is usually met by big city firms, who's trainees do not seem to come from poorer backgrounds. Rich kids will use daddy's contacts and money to obtain vacation placements which in turn leads them on to jobs. Poorer trainees can't get their foot in the door.

    Firstly, they should scrap the LPC which is an expensive waste of a year. Instead the training period ought to be extended to four years, which in my mind would produce much better lawyers.

    Secondly, the SRA should become nothing more than a kite mark, allowing those firms that meet its requirements to obtain their seal of approval. However, other firms, so long as they do not do private client work, should be permitted to set up without the burden of SRA or Law Society regulations. Let the corporate clients then decide which ones they want to use. This would have the effect of creating more law firms, with lower costs, better profits, which in turn would lead to the recruitment of more lawyers.

    However we all know that the vested interests of those that run LPC colleges and those of the Law Society/SRA would probably prevent this from becoming a reality.

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  • Interesting idea about the training contract no longer being necessary - would be curious to see his rationale for this comment.

    I know of many students at university who were able to get mini-pupillages and work experience via their parents. One guy even did a week's work experience at Clifford Chance before he even came to university. Funnily enough, when he applied through the formal avenues he was rejected.

    I think law firms are very accepting of other socio-economic groups than the middle-class white man, but in terms of opportunities, the richer you are the more opportunities you seem to get.

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  • What utter nonsense.Typical of this failed government to blame others for its failings. It always focuses on symptoms not the root cause - namely its own incompetence and adoption of inappropriate policies.

    The reality is that Law and other professions are not elitist or closed shops (an expression rooted in trade unionism), but do require intelligent, studious, well educated and committed people able to think creatively and analytically:

    1) this country however has shockingly bad State secondary education which fails to turn out people who are literate and numerate and capable of who can creative and analytical thought; there has been a levelling down in the alleged pursuit of equality (who doubts that exams have been dumbed down to ensure that increasing numbers pass so as to hide the reality - the abject failure of the State system!) brought about by this government;

    2) Labour destroyed the Grammar Schools which provided to those with aptitude from poorer backgrounds the opportunity to advance into the best Universities, jobs and the professions;

    3) Labour has created an unmotivated State dependent underclass, and a poorly educated mass of young people quite unable to apply themselves at the level needed for the professions and as a result has caused a massive reduction in upward social mobility.

    There are no barriers to entry into the Law or other professions other than the need for first rate education, willingness to work and study hard, commitment and agility of mind.

    The failure of so many to be equipped by the State to overcome those barriers is down to this Labour government. So Mr Milburn enough of your hypocrisy.

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  • I don't think that the point is that exceedingly brilliant people from working class backgrounds will not be able to make it - they probably will.

    I also do not think that completely thick middle, upper-middle or upper class people get through.

    The point is the 90% in the middle, where being better off DOES make a difference. It makes a difference because you went to a better school, so universities, employers and chambers look on you more favourably. It makes a difference because you have access to networks; and it makes a difference because you can be supported in doing the internships and unpaid things that make all the difference, whilst others have to work during the summer to pay off a small fraction of their debt.

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  • I was the first generation of my family to graduate and we certainly were not wealthy. However my higher education and living costs were funded by the state. Create a state education systems that encourages aspiration and provide the necessary funds to those with the talent to succeed. That is the way to open up access to the profession to everyone regardless of their social background not a system of social engineering driven by jealousy and inverted class prejudice.

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  • I am really not sure money is an issue. I am working full time and studying part time for my law diploma. Everything is possible, although with less money more patience is required. We need to raise lower class ambitions, if someone studies hard enough they CAN achieve.

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  • I agree entirely. There are many students who do not qualify for means tested bursaries/grants but who are also not exactly well off - in other words they are saddled with top up debt without the parental finances necessary to help.

    What I also find disgusting is law departments letting in students with quite below par grades, allowing students with CCC at A Level to think they have a realistic chance of getting a tc with a reputable firm, all the time milking them for three grand a year.

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