I went to an ‘ex-poly’ – City of London Polytechnic – because it had an excellent business law course and a first-rate specialist business school. I worked hard and came out with a very good degree. Ms Singleton appears to believe that we should only consider candidates with top degrees from the top universities. This is wrong and immediately leads to the situation we are now in, with the vast majority of law and LPC graduates failing to obtain a training contract at the end of their lengthy and expensive studies.
There will, of course, be a process of almost Darwinian natural selection – the best candidates will always get the best jobs – but what message does that give to students who may not have achieved the aimed-for results at A-level, thereby missing out on Oxbridge or the equivalent? ‘Sorry – you’re only 18, but it’s all over for you now, loser!’
It is naive in the extreme to say that removing the trainee minimum salary and relying on the national minimum wage will actually increase the number of contracts. It won’t. There are only so many jobs available in any year, and all law firms will do is pay their trainee intake a lower salary, thereby reducing costs and increasing profit. A good result from a business perspective; a disaster from a moral perspective.
Ms Singleton also talks about her grandfather’s experiences in the 1920s – and yes, it was undoubtedly harder then than it is now. The country had just come out of the bloodiest global war, and the Great Depression, the Holocaust and the butchery of the second world war were still to come. However, that’s why we – as a global population – have progressed in the last 100 years. We need now to progress as a modern profession.
With the training review well under way, discussion such as this is key; and if you haven’t yet contributed, you should do so. We must take this opportunity to create a proper, modern legal profession which values the dedication and career advancement of our youngest members. Then we will have created something of which we and our own grandchildren can be proud.
Edward R Foster, senior partner, Fosters Law, Herne Bay
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