Undergraduate law degrees are not the best way to prepare students for the profession, firms have said, citing a dearth of commercial awareness and attention to detail among junior lawyers.

A study involving Womble Bond Dickinson, Browne Jacobson, and eight other firms with offices in the south-west found ‘there is a notable gap of essential skills that law degrees tend not to prepare their students for and that there is a requirement for change’.

However, the report by legal management consultancy Kies said that ‘whilst the requirement for these skills might be reasonable, many universities challenge whether an undergraduate law degree is the optimal and appropriate vehicle to teach them such skills’.

Firms said trainees often struggle with business writing, sending ‘lengthy paragraphs with technical language (legal terms and Latin) rather than succinct explanations that are readable for a layman’. Some junior lawyers also make basic grammatical mistakes such as the incorrect use of ‘yours sincerely’ and ‘yours faithfully’, they said.

Of the senior staff surveyed, 71% said they would recruit a trainee with commercial or management experience and a 2:1 degree over an otherwise comparable candidate with a first class degree. ‘The observation is that the majority of junior lawyers do not appreciate that a law firm is ultimately a commercial enterprise,’ the report concluded.

From September 2021, students will not need to complete an undergraduate law degree or the law conversion course to become a solicitor. Graduates will instead take the Solicitors Qualifying Exam.