The online news item ‘Research reveals widening social divide in the profession’ stated that more than one in seven lawyers went to a private school, despite just one in 50 of the population receiving private education. This comes as no surprise.
Until the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) was introduced six years ago, applications to study undergraduate law in the UK could only be dealt with at face value by looking at previous and predicted academic success, and, in some cases, university interviews. This limited most universities – as the main gatekeepers to the law profession – to schools results and reduced the chances of candidates from less-privileged backgrounds of gaining access to the study of law.
The LNAT has demonstrated for the last six years that the results of the test are far less influenced by the educational or social background of applicants than A-levels or GCSEs, giving universities the chance to even up the playing field.
Now that we have an efficient method of measuring skills aptitude rather than knowledge, which can be used to supplement school results and identify candidates with high academic potential, universities should see it as their responsibility to use it.
This is an even more important issue now that the coalition proposes to raise the cap on university fees to £9000. If this proposal goes through, universities will need to take action to find robust mechanisms to ensure that equitable and merit-based or ‘needs-blind’ admissions are achieved.
In the future, the LNAT – and admissions tests like it – must become increasingly important in the development of needs-blind admissions policies in order to widen access to the study of law and to the legal profession.
Liora Lazarus , chair, National Admissions Test for Law; fellow, St Anne’s College, Oxford