I was at a fascinating meeting this week, with a group of post-graduate Law Students at Liverpool University. These were studying for Masters Degrees or PhD’s in Law and so they were a particularly talented bunch. Some were local but others were from as far afield as South America and Asia.
What was noticeable was that hardly any of them had any interest in traditional legal practice. They were drawn to high end commercial work or international human rights. Sadly I didn’t speak to one who was planning a career as a High Street Solicitor! When I was a student it was a very different world with most if not all of planning such a career.
I know that this was just one, particularly talented, group. But it did get me thinking about where the best young lawyers will come from in the future.
The pathway to a traditional career in the law is not easy. Students have to pay massive fees and run up staggering debts before they qualify. Then they have to find a training contract and then a job as a solicitor/barrister when they finish. And if they find training contract they can find themselves paid no more than the statutory minimum wage –
This is hardly an attractive to any but the most determined. When you add to that the added difficulties of working for ordinary people the landscape looks bleak. Having negotiated the daunting hurdles of qualification they find themselves working in a system where Legal Aid has virtually disappeared and working on a no win no fee basis makes them a target for politicians and the media!
So it is hardly surprising that International Commercial Law is a more attractive option to the best students. Who can blame them?
But this is shoring up problems for the future. Where will we find a new generation of lawyers to look after those who are not wealthy or major corporations? There will always be the dedicated few who will see the law as a vocation. But why should they have to?
We have a legal system which is the envy of the world. But if people do not have access to that system, and to the best legal representation then we will all be the worse off for it.