One subject that should concern us all is the way young people get to become lawyers.
I have written before about the SRA’s plan to abolish the minimum salary for Trainee Solicitors and how this might deter all but the wealthy from pursuing a career in the law. Other concerns are the huge student debts that are accumulated and the general shortage of jobs in the profession –
This is a real worry. Society needs a legal profession that is representative of society as a whole. This is why I have opposed the SRA’s decision on the minimum salary as have the Junior Lawyers Division who represents trainees and newly qualified solicitors.
There is talk of a new initiative which might present a different route into legal work. This is the announcement that the government has made funding available to create legal apprenticeships which train non graduates in certain areas of legal work such as litigation or debt recovery. This will lead in turn to a wave of trained paralegals who will work in law firms but who do not wish to become qualified. In fact there is a route to qualification as paralegals can work to become Chartered Legal Executives and they in turn can become solicitors by a combination of practical experience and passing professional exams.
I have to say that I can see why this would become popular with school leavers who do not want to take a huge risk on student debt alongside the lottery of getting a job at the end.
If this initiative leads to more young people finding jobs in the law then it is clearly a good thing. But I do not think it replaces the need for properly paid training contracts for graduates who have studied for years and have the right to expect a reasonably paid job at the end. If that option is removed then the most talented graduates will go into other careers.
So the reality is that the profession needs both. We should encourage students into law at every level. Society will benefit from an influx of apprentices who go on to become highly experienced paralegals. But we also need to encourage the best undergraduates to pursue careers in law as well.
So whilst this is a positive development, there is still the need to revisit prohibitive student debts and to maintain a fair salary.