The Prejudice Barrier

Overcoming academic hurdles is an everyday occurrence in a student's life, but overcoming prejudice can be more difficult. Those entering the legal profession often come up against discrimination because of their educational background, age or ethnic minority.

Although some in-roads have been made with, for example the referral scheme launched on the initiative of the Society of Asian Lawyers and the African Caribbean and Asia Lawyers Group, aimed at ensuring ethnic minority applicants are included for interview by law firms, it seems any changes will be gradual.

The majority of firms in The Lawyer Top 100 this year required a minimum of a 2:1 degree, with only 16 per cent indicating that they would consider a 2:2 for potential trainees.

This requirement immediately rules out many law students, and this is often compounded by an apparent bias toward Oxford and Cambridge students and the perception that many law firms are almost 'downgrading' those applicants from the former polytechnics.

But there is also anecdotal evidence that students who have completed the LPC at the College of Law (and recently Nottingham Trent University) are more likely to be taken on as trainees than students who have taken the course at other institutions which run it.

One student who has just completed the LPC at Oxford Brookes University says because the College of Law has a proven track record with its predecessor, the Law Society finals, partners who attended the college themselves may regard students from there more favourably when recruiting.

However, a trainee, now in his second year with a top 10 firm, says attending a polytechnic made no difference nor did the fact that he was older than the average trainee. He says his firm had “a very open and positive attitude to those with a different background, compared with some students who had come straight from school.”