Too many law students

As under-graduates are busy causing havoc in London (and incidentally blocking my usual route home) there are growing calls from members of the legal profession to reduce the number of post-graduate students training to become lawyers.

To qualify as a solicitor most people complete a law degree, the Legal Practice Course and two-years of on the job training.  Similarly at the Bar you do your degree, the Bar Finals (they have a new name that I can't remember now) and then one-year on the job training, called a pupillage.  Currently the LPC at BPP Law School costs £12,500 in London and the Bar Course costs an eye watering £14,995.  By the time you get near doing these courses you will have either a law degree, currently costing about £9,000 or a non-law degree (still £9,000) plus the Post Graduate Diploma in Law £8,730.  If I qualified today using the route I took then I would have paid £23,734 just in tuition fees.  That is significantly more than any trainee solicitors will earn on the high street.

Shortly the first degree will cost £27,000 for a three year course, giving a total to qualify as a solicitor of £39,500 (the route I took would cost £50,725).  At a rate of about £250 p/m repayments and ignoring interest completely, a debt of £39,500 will take more than 13-years to repay.  If you pass your LPC when you're aged 23 then you will still be repaying the debt when you are 36-years-old.  Most people by then would have hoped to have bought a house, but what responsible lender will give a loan to somebody with all that debt?

Add to that the unfortunate but simple truth that the vast majority of hopeful lawyers-to-be will never qualify!  Of the 30-odd people in my class on the Bar course just two of us are in practice! This is something that the colleges running the LPC and Bar Finals never seem to mention to their students... at least not before they stump up their first tuition fee payment.

Maybe it is time that students are prevented from undertaking the LPC and Bar Finals until such time as they have secured a training contract of pupillage.  It may not be nice, but it might be in their best interests.  Otherwise there really will be a generation of students with too many useless qualifications and a mountain of debt they will never be able to repay.

Comments

  1. Seems to me the rising fees should solve the problem

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't think it will. What it will do is further skew the demographic of the legal profession to ensure that the only people who enter it are those with private means, not necessarily those who are the most talented.

    Given the current suspicion that vast swathes of the legal profession are out of step with the rest of society, I can't see that helping.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I also think that the huge fees will mean more people from wealthy families going into some areas of law. It won't happen with legal aid cases as most wealthy people seem to prefer commercial or other high earning areas. In mt experience I would say that 90% of legal aid solicitors are from ordinary (non-privilleged) backgrounds - I was born in Mile End, the fourth child of a postman and (at the time) a nursery nurse who lived in a council house until they bought their first home when I was about 5.

    A very large number of ethnic minority lawyers work in legal aid areas of law, a lot of them trying to help their communities as well as the wider public.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree that the profession needs to be cruel to be kind to aspiring entrants. For a great profession the law seems to be badly mismanaging its young and potential members. The double whammy of reduced demand for legal services and over-supply of law graduates is going to take a decade or more to sort out. I spoke to a partner in a large provincial partner about it the other day. His reply was to shake his head and mutter "it's simply over-supply".

    ReplyDelete
  5. make that 'provincial firm' - sorry.

    ReplyDelete

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