Following on from Maggie O’Brien’s letter, I agree that today’s aspiring solicitors face numerous problems. I would like to discuss two issues about the application procedure for training contracts.
First, although the application process aims to be meritocratic, there remain serious problems that work to the disadvantage of candidates from the ‘wrong’ social background. The objective assessment standards are based on flawed and biased criteria. Oxbridge degrees have an inflated value. The rejection of candidates with less-than-stellar academic records is predicated on the inaccurate assumption that brilliant students make brilliant lawyers. Accounts of climbing Kilimanjaro are accorded more weight than experience of working in a shop.
Ultimately, people’s judgements are normative – that is, we prefer those who are similar to us. My interview at the firm that hired me was with a partner who went to the same Oxbridge college as me.
Second, the cost of the GDL (£10,000) and LPC (£10,000-£15,000) puts off many from pursuing a career in law. Most LPC students either have training contract offers or parents who can provide maintenance grants and underwrite the risks of incurring high levels of debt.
A friend who got a first in English from an Oxbridge college failed to secure sponsorship for a training contract during her final year of university and was unwilling to take on tens of thousands of pounds in student loans for the GDL. As someone from a low-income background with experience of various jobs, she is exactly the kind of person City firms are looking for in their push for diverse candidates. She has now given up on a career in the legal profession.
Reform is urgently needed to ensure that recruitment processes are truly meritocratic and that the GDL and LPC are affordable for the best and brightest students – not just those who can afford them.
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