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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Law - a career for the rich? (3)

I think most would agree that we should have a diverse legal profession.

This is important across all levels. We need a strong vibrant profession that is in touch with those that it represents. Those who come into the law now will be the business leaders, legal thinkers and judges of the future. In any reasonable society those in such positions need to be drawn from as broad a base of possible.

It is also very important that talented lawyers are drawn from all across society and not limited to one social group.

I have written before about major concerns that the law is becoming a career option only for the rich –

Lady Hale, our most senior woman judge and former academic talked in 2013 about many who aspired to a legal career they may never have. 

A recent report suggests that the situation is getting worse rather than better –

This study reported by the Law Society Gazette found that 75% of top judges and QCs were independently schooled. You are far more likely to become a QC if you went to Oxbridge. Some say that the onus is on law firms to take the initiative. This is clearly true and Allen Overy, mentioned in the article, do have an have excellent initiatives to provide work experience for all students –

But such initiatives can only play a limited role. 

The abolition of minimum pay for trainees has been a major disincentive for many. Why would any aspiring lawyer want to run up debts of £50k and then find there is little or no chance of a training contract which provides a sustainable wage? I was one that fortunate generation who was able to go through academic and professional training with full state support and no debt. I am one of many for whom the law would have been inaccessible today.

A fundamental question needs to be addressed. Do we want an inclusive profession? If so, then all of us need to do what we can to remove rather than create obstacles.

Easing of tuition fees, better funding and a realistic salary would be a start.

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