Thursday April 22, 2010, 11:23
It is interesting to note, "In the past, around 70-80% of applicants to the Diploma secured a place on the course. In 2009 every applicant was successful."
I completed the diploma in the 2008/2009 session.
Given initial advice that 120 places would be available at the institution, students were surprised (and perhaps dismayed) to discover approx. 181 were enrolled. I understand a number of the additional places were offered to students shortly before the course commenced. I would agree that it is acceptable to "consider" offering such additional places in very exceptional circumstances, perhaps to borderline students with secured traineeship offers. However, to offer additional places to those without is surely damaging the traineeship prospects of others.
The point was, of course, raised with staff numerous times throughout the diploma. The only explanation given consisted of claims that certain applicants were extremely "anxious" to obtain a diploma place. In my opinion such an approach is counter-productive and detrimental to all.
I also note that as of the 2010/2011 session, a seventh institution will be providing the diploma. I can only assume that this will result in an even higher number of available places.
The diploma is an expensive, demanding course and I can fully understand the frustrations of those who have attempted to follow the path towards a legal career only to find the competition has been unnecessarily increased.
Sunday April 25, 2010, 22:44
Those looking for a traineeship might be interested to note that I have yet to come across a single legal firm that gives two hoots about performance on the Diploma.
Access to the Diploma is (with only rare exceptions) based on performance in the "Law Society" subjects and not the final class of degree.
Yet most (if not all) law firms will only interview those with a 1st or 2:1. Therefore the situation is that despite the Diploma being mandatory firms place no importance to it, other than a tick in the box. This can be seen in the practice of many firms who recruit from the 3rd year of the LLB.
The Law Society is not in a position to make firms recruit in a particular way. Fair/unfair, open/opaque, each firm can recruit how it likes.
If the Diploma is only a necessary evil for those who wish to gain a traineeship, but does nothing to improve their prospects of actually obtaining a traineeship, is the Diploma itself really necessary?
If a lawyer from another jurisdiction is allowed to practise here by means of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (for example), why are indigenous prospective lawyers forced to seek a traineeship and place themselves at the mercy of the prejudices (legal or not) of those who are recruiting? How much talent is being wasted because the recruiting firms simply don't "fancy them"? The current system is also blighted by nepotism and patronage.
Scrap the Diploma I say.
Scrap the traineeship system I say.
Set up a system of rigorous "Bar Exams" and allow everyone to take their chances. Those and such as those would still secure the traineeships with the big commercial firms. But the rest of us would get the chance to prove that we have what it takes.
In any respect the current system is untenable and something has to change.
Thursday April 29, 2010, 12:18
I was fortunate enough to take part in a grilling of a member of the Law Society about this time last year. Tempers were running high and with only weeks until some of my cohort were due to start work, they had traineeships cancelled or deferred. The common theme of questioning was the role of the Society as gatekeeper to the profession. The facts were simple, massive number of diploma places were and still are being made available while the number of traineeships decreases rapidly. I suggested that it was for the Law Society to regulate “service providers” (universities to the man on the street) as there was no incentive for any institution to impose a cap on numbers unilaterally. Think about the maths:
Where I studied there were approx 150 students. At £5,000 a time this is a lot of money for old rope. All this for a 26 week course which is notoriously badly run and which employers see as basically useless. Let’s be honest, if it was any good, why would we need the PCC?
However, I was informed that the Law Society is not going to intervene. Rather they are proud of their "guidance note approach" (see above), something I’m sure is of great comfort to all those with the letters DipLP after their name, significant debts and a bar job instead of a traineeship. My point is that the universities will not kill the golden goose that is the Diploma, nor even clip its wings.
Would the Law Society acknowledge, as the profession does, that there are diplomas of differing qualities on offer? It is widely acknowledged (by students at least) that if you want to spend 9-5 in class then pick Edinburgh, while if you wish to pursue a "more active social life" you should head north to Aberdeen. The Law Soc rep seemed flustered at this point. I suggested that apart from public perceptions, there were also differences in price. Did the cost of providing the course really differ by as much as a grand between our fair capital to other cities? Or was this merely a reflection of quality? When, for example, had the service providers last been checked or audited to make sure they stuck to the curriculum and that we really were receiving like for like education in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow etc? That’s simple he said, when the diploma was launched. Seeking clarification, I asked when this was exactly. The answer delivered to a room of shocked faces? 1981.