Milburn: the law is too elitist

A new government paper has called on the legal industry to remove the barriers preventing those from poorer backgrounds joining the profession. 

The report, chaired by social mobility czar Alan Milburn, said that high status professions like the law have a “closed shop” mentality and have become more elitist over time.

It pointed to the fact that 75 per cent of judges and nearly 70 per cent of barristers are privately educated.

The paper also offers evidence that the legal profession has become more exclusive in recent years. The families of the current generation of lawyers are better off on average than those born in the fifties.

Of all the professions, doctors and lawyers came from the wealthiest backgrounds.

Writing in the report, Milburn says: “Of course not everyone can be a doctor or a lawyer – and not everyone will want to be – but those with ability and aptitude need a fair crack of the whip to realise their aspirations.”

Among the recommendations in the report is that professions and universities publish information on the social background of their intake.

Many law firms already publish figures on gender and ethnic background but few measure the social class of employees.

Milburn has also called for better careers advice for young people, and for universities to consider the background of potential students when allocating places.

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.

He told The Lawyer: “Of course there’s a problem, now we have to do something about it. Our view is that the training contract is no longer necessary.”