One of my regular themes has been about the need to ensure that the legal profession represents the whole of society. In years gone by the Law was a career for the wealthy. There is a real risk that we could go back to those dark days –
There are many reasons why those from lower income families might be deterred. Who would want to run up eye watering levels of debt and have no guarantee of a job at the end of it all? The Legal Profession is under greater political pressure than at any time that I can remember.
Legal writer Catherine Baksi has reported in the Guardian about initiatives taken by some of the county’s largest firms to address this problem –
It is encouraging to read of the actions taken by these mega firms to ensure that the best students are attracted to the law regardless of their background. She also refers to the work done by the PRIME initiative offered by a group of firms. These projects are certainly good news and hopefully more firms will follow suit.
But these schemes cannot address the whole problem. There are few firms who have the resources to run their own programmes. They are also likely to draw students to a certain sector of the profession – the sector in which firms like Linklaters and Norton Rose do business. There is no harm in that. But there is still the problem of drawing talented students into other areas of law, particularly those affecting the most vulnerable –
We need to see action taken to attract those lawyers who see a career in the law as a calling to fight for justice. There is a limit on what the legal profession can do. I suspect that we will see increased numbers opting for apprentiships rather than formal legal qualification. There will also be more students aiming for Legal Executive status especially following the grant of the Charter to CILEX. But there will still be those who want to become a Solicitor or Barrister and it will be a shame if that door is closed to those who are not rich or do not want to work in the City of London.