I was very interested to see the report on the roundtable discussion on diversity (see 18 March), and disappointed in equal measure – although not particularly surprised – to see no mention of age diversity.
When I was at law school, there was a student social group for career-changers. Other than this, I have never encountered anyone in the legal profession seriously addressing problems that affect older people joining the profession, such as:The enormous financial risk of paying upfront for legal education (without the benefit of local authority subsidies, student loans or the ‘bank of mum and dad’), for the uncertain prospect of a training contract at the minimum wage. Comparability of qualifications gained 20 years ago with those of today. Some training contract application forms required a list of GCSE results as one of the first questions and, no doubt, the employing firm expected to see a list of A*s – GCSEs did not exist when I was at school, never mind A*s. Conversely, not all HR staff seem to know what an S-level is. Potential employers not accepting that an each-way commute of 50 miles or more is acceptable (relocation expenses would be prohibitive for a job which is not fully covered by the Employment Rights Act for the first two years).
Admittedly, this is just anecdotal experience, and it may be there is no systemic problem. At law school, students over 35 seemed to make up about 5% of the cohort: perhaps older trainees and NQs are proportionately represented in the major firms. I hope someone will correct my impression that every under-represented group is being offered assistance, except the one of which I’m a member.
Frances Marshall, Farnborough, Hampshire