The Lawyer's finding that 39 per cent of trainee solicitors want to leave the profession is an alarming statistic.
Years of debt and pressure have taken their toll on these individuals and there is little support for their position in many firms. Having fought against the odds for a place (Birmingham law firm Wragge & Co recently got around 1,000 applications for 18 training contracts), they are finding that the chase was not worth it.
It may be natural for some students to realise that the law is not for them – but one in three trainees? Clearly, many prospective lawyers are not getting enough information about what the job really entails. The image of the profession as portrayed in the media can lead to a glamorisation of the law as well as the impression that all lawyers are fat cats purring all the way to the bank.
Surely the Law Society has a moral obligation to ensure that students get a flavour of the real legal profession before becoming trapped in a seven-year study and training cycle that is virtually impossible to break out of.
Equally importantly many good lawyers are also being lost because of working conditions in law firms that border on the Dickensian. Many smaller regional firms cannot even afford to fund a full training contract and Law Society waivers of the minimum wage should be allowed. But offering £3,500 a year for a trainee, as one firm did, is tantamount to slave labour.
Law firms need to stop exploiting trainees and invest in them. Trainee Solicitors Group chairman Nick Armstrong says there must be more accurate career information. He also calls for the plight of trainees to be further investigated.
The Law Society must take heed of this and ensure that trainees enter the legal profession with realistic expectations and enjoy fair and equitable working conditions.