Tests to weed out trainee surplus

AN APTITUDE test for would-be solicitors to be taken before training has emerged as the favoured presidential device for reducing the profession's trainee surplus.

Law Society vice-president Robert Sayer appears to have plumped for non-academic personality tests as the best way to deal with what he and president Martin Mears identified during the presidential elections as one of the key problems of the profession.

But Sayer, who heads a presidential working party set up to deal with the oversupply of lawyers in the profession, argues that his prime concern is to raise standards. He said his plan for aptitude tests had received widespread support within the working party.

“The idea is to put in a filter which will identify people who are likely to be good lawyers, the biggest problem is quite what form that test should be.”

Last week the Law Society unveiled a Policy Studies Institute report on training which identified discrimination at every stage of the process.

Sayer said it was possible to devise a non-discriminatory test, but opponents to the move would argue a further test would boost discrimination.

The society's training committee chair Simon Baker said the report highlighted the need for firms to improve their recruitment practices.

“We need to convince people that equal opportunities is good for business because firms have a better chance of getting the best people while the profession is more approachable if it represents all sectors of society,” he said (see page 13).

The Bar Council has welcomed the report, which also examined the progress of students through Bar training and found that there was less evidence of discrimination.