Blind man's bid to open Law Soc's eyes

A BLIND man who is determined to be a solicitor claims the Law Society is hindering him from gaining articles.

Nigel Powell, of Salford, has failed to obtain a training contract since taking his Law Society finals in 1992. He works in Lancashire County Council's executive legal department but the society will only allow him to count 12 months of his work there towards his articles.

Manchester Training and Enterprise Council sponsored Powell to work at the council and provided him with the equipment he needed – a laptop PC, voice synthesiser, fax/ modem, scanner and printer. The council was impressed with his work and decided to create a post for him.

Powell said: “The technology is available for blind people but until people like myself get jobs then law firms are unaware. The people who wield the power at the Law Society need to have their eyes open. I am given a great deal of responsibility in my job. I am able to instruct counsel unsupervised so I don't see why my work here cannot count for all of my training contract.”

Stuart Turnock, the council's legal services unit manager, said there would be an official training contract available soon but, under the equal opportunities policy, it could not be guaranteed to any one individual.

Colin Beatty, senior policy executive in legal education at the society, said: “We would give Nigel all the help we possibly could. The society has guidelines about what can and cannot be accepted as a training contract. Either his work did not have sufficient law content or was not varied enough.”