News In Focus
SYLA backs Campaign for Fair Access
17 September 2012
Backing for the campaign to make proper loan funding available to students on the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice has come from the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association (SYLA).
SYLA President Fiona McAllister has issued a statement affirming the Association's full support for the aims and efforts of the Campaign for Fair Access to the Legal Profession (CFALP), set up by students from all the law faculties in Scotland to attempt to persuade the Scottish Government to raise the £3,400 cap on the loans on offer to Diploma students.
A debate will be held in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday this week, 20 September, on the issue of fair access to the legal profession.
With Diploma tuition fees now averaging £6,000 and student having to fund their own living costs over and above this, CFALP argues that access to the legal profession will be restricted to those with private means or family support.
Supporting this stand, SYLA states: "The issues surrounding funding for the Diploma and its ramifications for young lawyers have been of longstanding concern for the SYLA. When the changes to funding of the Diploma were announced [last] November, there was justified criticism from the SYLA and the profession at large over the lack of consultation in advance of the change and the lack of detail after its announcement about how the change would be implemented.
"Since this time the SYLA has engaged in a number of discussions with other bodies about how the current discrepancies between the route to qualification in law and other professions, such as medicine, dentistry and architecture, can be addressed. Potential solutions to this issue may be the integration of the current undergraduate and postgraduate courses into one single five year degree or the availability of a short, but intensive, PEAT1 course as is available from some LPC providers in England & Wales.
"While an undergraduate academic degree followed by a mandatory postgraduate professional diploma (PEAT1) remains the route that the vast majority will follow into the law, the Scottish Government and the profession at large have a responsibility to ensure that bright students from less advantaged backgrounds are not deterred from embarking upon a legal career for purely financial reasons. Allowing Diploma/PEAT1 students access to loan funding for living and maintenance costs would be a simple and obvious first step."
SYLA continues by calling for further discussion on how best to achieve excellence in an efficient and effective Scottish legal education system – a debate, it says, that Government, the legal profession, universities and schools should engage in further going forward.
"There needs to be fair access to the profession for all, regardless of financial background", the staement concludes. "It is in the interests of Scottish society at large to have a representative legal profession. This can not be the case if qualification as a solicitor is reserved for those of privilege."