Putting life into law

If there’s one topic that elicits more comment on TheLawyer.com than any other, it’s education.cat

If there’s one topic that elicits more comment on TheLawyer.com than any other, it’s education.
We saw it again last week when we ran the story of Slaughter and May being so inundated with applications from non-law undergraduates that it had to truncate that part of the recruitment process to ensure that it could deal fairly with the law undergraduates. This mutuated into an enormous discussion online about the merits or otherwise of studying a different degree at undergraduate level.
Unfortunately, some of the posters on TheLawyer.com who were under the impression that Slaughters would no longer be recruiting non-law grads at all could have done with some training in close textual analysis themselves.
Anyway, here’s a typical comment from the debate: “The lawyers who have not undertaken a law degree are not properly trained, evidenced by the poor quality of many of the trainees and junior lawyers in this country. Just as degrees in English, History and Basket Weaving do not qualify people to be doctors, they also do not qualify people to be lawyers.”
Or this one: “In terms of the practical work of a solicitor, whether you did an LLB or not is irrelevant. All you need is common sense and the ability to read and write competently. This said, it does rile me when I see people who have completed essentially worthless degrees, such as History or English, pondering about converting before ­effectively ‘jumping the queue’.”
People outside the legal profession always find this debate genuinely odd.
Certainly, if you have a vocation to be a lawyer from the age of 16, it’s creditable, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d be a better lawyer for having studied law for three years.
In any case, the profession needs lawyers with intellectual curiosity from different academic ­backgrounds. The ability to assimilate Beowulf or early Hegelian Marx is probably just as useful to a City practitioner as family law.
Even the bar, which requires a much more academic approach, no longer makes much distinction. One senior clerk at a top set told me last week that his chambers is quite partial to philosophy students.
And as non-law graduates always enjoy pointing out, Jonathan Sumption read History.