Time to ditch the LPC?

The LPC is a ludicrous anachronism that ought to be scrapped: discuss. Our report last week (27 July) that the Law Society was launching a campaign to warn students off a law career came just a week after the publication of the Milburn report, which criticised the legal profession for being a closed shop.

This raises the spectre of the Law Society actually discouraging applicants from what is ­euphemistically termed ‘non-traditional ­backgrounds’. But while there is plenty of opinion either way on whether City law firms discriminate against working-class applicants, there are other aspects of the debate that are worth airing.

College of Law chief executive Nigel Savage is one critic of the training contract as it currently stands, but I’m not sure the training contract is the ­problem; most people agree that practical ­application of knowledge and a required period of rotation around practice areas are ideal. Instead, there is a growing feeling in some quarters that we should scrap the LPC.

The expense of legal education now is such that students with no guaranteed training contract end up with tens of thousands of pounds in debt. The law schools have been complicit in this, of course, but their typical rejoinder to any criticism that they are churning out legions of unemployed graduates is that they’re simply servicing demand.

What’s more, now that the SRA has done away with the LPC grading system it’s difficult for ­students to identify which are the duff schools.

There is another model in the law that works excellently, and it’s right under our noses. It’s the Ilex (Institute of Legal Executives) scheme. You can work your way up to becoming a legal executive and solicitor, which suits plenty of people who don’t fit the fresh-faced graduate mould.

In this context the accountancy model seems attractive. Rather than having a year of classroom study and two years of a training contract, why not adopt three years of mixed earning and learning? The City firms could drop their trainee salaries to reflect the fact that the trainees were not doing as much fee-earning, which in the long-term would have a knock-on effect on salaries and costs across the profession. That might get partners’ attention, if nothing else.