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Learning on the slate

08 Mar 12

Views on the likely impact of the Scottish Government's switch from grants to loans for Diploma students, which means some funding for all but a cut for some who might need the support

by Peter Nicholson

The news broke late last year that from the 2012-13 academic session the Government grants awarded to 300 students each year on the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice will be no more, with loans through the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) taking their place. Variously criticised as adding to student debt and likely to narrow once again the social background of the legal profession for the future, the proposals met a hostile reaction. As details have emerged, the picture is less straightforward, but the move has still sparked a debate over support for the next generation of intending lawyers. Who will end up paying?

To understand where we are now, we have to rewind a little. Lawyers who secured a funded Diploma place in the 80s or early 90s may be surprised to learn that their counterparts of today are out of pocket before they start. At that time, the grant fully covered the tuition fees and it was possible to apply for a supplementary means-tested award; but first it was restricted to fees only, and then frozen in cash terms at £3,400, whereas course fees have in the last few years shot up to around the £5,500-6,500 band.

In addition, the number of awards currently covers fewer than half of those enrolling on the Diploma, especially since the recent increase in total course places (though Stirling has announced its intention to discontinue from next year).

With the course not having been recognised for student loan purposes, unsuccessful applicants have been thrown back on the general loan market. So, indeed, have grant-aided students as respects the balance of their tuition fees, and their living expenses, unless they have had other means available. And loans of that sort may be hard to obtain unless your traineeship is already secured.

Again, awards have been made on the basis of academic merit rather than means, which arguably has made it harder for the student from a less supportive family background to achieve one, though some defend the meritocratic nature of the selection.

The current plans do at least mean a more equitable sharing of public funds. Ministers have now made clear that everyone accepted for a Diploma place will be entitled to a loan through SAAS, provided they meet the residency criteria and have not already had postgraduate funding for another course. But the amount of the loan is being capped at the £3,400 level of the current grant, so the need for access to other top-up funding will remain.

Next generation

What, then, is the end result likely to be in terms of access to the profession? “I have a real concern that we’re in danger of reverting to being an upper middle class profession,” says Douglas Mill, Director of Professional Legal Practice at Glasgow University and former Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland.

“I think it would surprise most solicitors over 40 how much debt people are carrying into the profession these days. Each of the last two years we’ve had 179 acceptances of offers for the Diploma and only 167 have started the course. There may be other reasons, but I think our leakage is largely explicable by people who thought they might get a grant and when they didn’t, pulled out.”

Liz Campbell, Director of Education & Training at the Law Society of Scotland, agrees that access is a concern. “We went public when the statement first came in that we were concerned, and we will continue to speak to Government about what else can be done”, she says. “I think there’s a dialogue to be had that includes the universities, the Government and the profession about funding, because undoubtedly it is an added cost and it may well have an impact.” But while she hears anecdotally of students withdrawing from Diploma places because of difficulties over funding, she adds that it is difficult to say what the effect will be of moving to loans.

Views from students certainly suggest that there is an effect. Ryan Whelan, now in his traineeship after graduating from Aberdeen University, believes there are a considerable number of LLB graduates who, if they have failed to secure a grant and do not yet have a traineeship offer, are not willing to take the “gamble” of incurring (often further) debt to pursue the Diploma.

Fraser Matheson, currently in his final year at Aberdeen, thinks the effect is difficult to quantify but that many may go on to take the course in any event, having committed themselves to accommodation arrangements and so on. “That is not to say that such a position is justifiable,” he adds. “That individual will no doubt find living expenses a great difficulty.”

Changed climate

Jodie Chandler, at the same stage, comments: “When I began my degree almost four years ago, a lecturer asked how many students wanted to become a solicitor and was met with a show of hands from the large majority of the class. The harsh reality is that many of those who raised their hands would no longer do so; one, because of the current discouraging job climate and availability, or lack, of traineeships; and two, because of the unavoidable expense met by each student who wishes to study the Diploma.”

Eamon Keane, a contemporary at Dundee, points out: “It was consistently repeated to us in first and second year that our performance would determine funding when it came to the Diploma. Many worked incredibly hard in order to guarantee they would secure funding and it now feels as if a promise has been broken to an extent.”

Matheson’s principal complaint is that ministers have not done the research into the present situation or the likely effects of their decision.

Edinburgh graduate Philippa Greer is one who particularly benefited from the grant. “Being a student who came from a state school and from the first generation in my family to go to university, Diploma funding is an issue,” she says. “I received a bursary and loan throughout the degree and without it wouldn’t have been able to access university. The Diploma grant is helpful, but it is not enough and taking it away altogether is unfair to those to whom it matters.”

She adds: “The grant doesn’t cover the entire course fee and there is no access to maintenance loans from SAAS, as we are classed as doing a second course of study. This is something that I have been disheartened by, as friends who have gone on to pursue second degrees in medicine have been able to access full maintenance funding from SAAS for such years, yet there is nothing for us for the one year Diploma.

“Most people on the course are lucky enough to be funded by parents, but others have to ‘grin and bear’ debt to do the Diploma.”

Part time question

The question whether it is practical – or even encouraged – for students to hold a part-time job while taking the course attracts varying comments. Mill claims that the Glasgow course (which only began in 2010) is designed to permit this, while warning that it means a “real slog”: “Our timetable is such that basically people can get two and a half days’ working time and still do the Diploma (the full time one). Perhaps that’s why there wasn’t a significant demand for part time, because essentially, the Diploma is part time in terms of the timetable.”

It is not long, however, since part time work was openly discouraged. It may be that universities, having increased the course fees, are now more flexible – some might say realistic – in their expectations of whether students can devote themselves full time to the course. If so, the message has not got through to everyone. “We were warned from our first day that having a job while doing the full time course is next to impossible, and that if we planned to do so we should undertake the two year part-time course,” says Greer.

Matheson suggests that part-time work is more manageable during the degree. “The Diploma is a lot more practical and intensive. It is likely that students forced to take on part-time work will struggle to keep up with the requirements of the course.”

Whelan adds that part-time work “appears far from easy given the attendance now required of those on the Diploma”.

Some scope for more clearly understood guidelines there, then.

Whelan claims that “most, even those who have acquired a grant or loan, need to rely on some degree of family support for the living expenses necessary to undertake the Diploma. Those who are unable to do so either incur more debt or, often with difficulty, work longer hours in part-time jobs to support themselves”. Especially, he adds, those who have to live away from home in order to study. Matheson points out that those relying on a loan during their degree, and then for part of their Diploma fees as well as living expenses, could easily run up debts of over £20,000, and that is without undergraduate tuition fees being charged.

Fresh look

Are any alternatives open? The whole legal education and training process has only just undergone a complete overhaul, so it is not a propitious time to propose further radical change.

Campbell confirms that at the planning stage of the reforms, “there was certainly strong support for the retention of a bridge between the degree and practice – for a Diploma-type course – so what we have designed was intended to be flexible to allow it to be delivered in different ways. Some universities are delivering part-time models. Others are structured in a way that allows a full day out to work. The Accreditation Guidelines do allow for the possibility of the degree and Diploma to be merged in some way. The opportunity was, and is, there for universities to come forward with such models. At this stage, no such model has been presented to the Society and, while I understand there may be issues around the structure of the degree that mean it is extremely difficult, it may be possible.”

Does the Diploma need to take up a whole academic year? Calling for some “blue sky” thinking on the issue (Journal, December 2011, 42), Scottish Young Lawyers Association President Catriona Headley floated the suggestion of an intensive eight-week course instead.

So far there have not been any takers. Mill says the idea “won’t fly”. Campbell explains: “If we are going to have loan funding for the course, it needs to meet the funding requirements. It’s not a model that we’ve looked at with the universities, or indeed in the Education &Training Committee, but because of the credit structure attached to it – it requires 120 credits and to cover specified outcomes – I think it would be very difficult to condense it into that length of time. If the universities wanted to come forward with a condensed model, it would be looked at as an accreditation issue, but that would be a completely unfunded model because it wouldn’t meet the requirements for a funded course. So students on that would be self funding.”

A more practical approach might be to take the course part time over two years, an option now offered at Strathclyde, Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University. As Heather McKendrick, the Society’s Development Officer, points out, whereas part time students did not qualify for the grant, with a part loan of £1,700 each year and course fees of about £3,000, covering the gap through part time work becomes a bit more manageable.

That said, funding issues remain, and intending lawyers would be adding a further year to the seven already taken by most to qualify – assuming that an honours degree is necessary to give you a decent chance of a traineeship. Is there anything the profession itself can do to help?

As Mill observes, “The cupboard in Scotland is fairly bare. There’s nothing in the market that can replicate the £1,000,000 the Government was giving the profession every year. That’s serious money.” Some fortunate candidates may, however, be subsidised by their future employers. Campbell believes, without having a full picture, that some firms make up the shortfall in fees. And some Scots firms competing in the London market are understood (there is some reluctance to go public) to support their future trainees during their Diploma year, as City practices do with the equivalent Legal Practice Course in England.

It raises the prospect of a further flow of Scots talent southwards. But with a current surplus of Diploma graduates over traineeship places in Scotland (latest Society figures record 488 training contracts begun in 2011, whereas 658 students are currently taking the Diploma), there is not likely to be a shortfall of candidates for home-based firms in the near future.

United front?

There is at least an emerging “think tank and pressure group” (its description) now discussing the issue. The recently established Learning and Development Scotland (LEADS), a forum made up of interested legal firms together with university representatives, training providers and HR professionals, considered the implications of the switch to loans at its most recent meeting in February. The note of the meeting provided to the Journal (reproduced with the online version of this article) shows that the group is not yet at the stage of promoting any particular outcome, but “people were throwing up all sorts of ideas”, as Anna Bennett of the WS Society, which facilitates the group, told me.

What will happen next in response to the Government’s move remains unclear. However, there is clearly a considerable level of resentment among students at ministers’ unilateral action, and a strong view in most quarters that talks should be taking place on the basis of a clearer factual picture than is currently available.

SYLA’s Headley would like the profession to show a united front to Government in seeking at least that the new loans cover the full tuition fee. And while recognising that the costs of running a Diploma course are much higher than for the LLB, due to the involvement of practitioner tutors, she maintains that it is time for a fresh look at whether a five year LLB-plus-Diploma course can be devised. “The economic facts have changed since the consultation stages of the PEAT process”, she says, “and we mustn’t be limited to what we have been doing up to now.”

“The big question”, says Mill, “is what kind of legal profession do we want for the future? Because seven years in total is arguably poor value for what you get for it. It’s a long time till you get your first passable pay cheque. That’s kind of OK when everybody’s fully funded, but in tougher times when there’s a lower percentage with a job at the end of the day I think it’s something all parties need to look at in the cold light of day.”

 

 

Online exclusive comment

Fraser Matheson, final year LLB student, Aberdeen University

The new system does throw up a number of difficult questions to which nobody really has the answer. It is unfortunate that no efforts have been made by the Scottish Government to ask and answer these questions. Perhaps the Law Society will consider looking at these issues in some detail.

Whether there are many who currently apply for a grant and don't get one, who are then put off by the prospect of having to rely on a loan, is a very tricky thing to assess. I do not directly know of anyone who finds themselves in precisely that position. I think that most who apply for the Diploma and are successful in that application, but nonetheless fail to get a grant, will have ended up doing the Diploma without the grant anyway. By that stage, it is likely that the individual will have committed to accommodation arrangements and so on.

That is not to say that such a position is justifiable. That individual will no doubt find living expenses and so on a great difficulty. Such individuals are likely to be forced in to taking on substantial part time work. Throughout the degree, that is manageable. The Diploma is a lot more practical and intensive. It is likely that students forced to take on part time work will struggle to keep up with the requirements of the course.

How many who actually take the Diploma course are able to rely on some form of family support? The reality here, I suspect, is that most people will be able to rely on at least some degree of family support. But that by no means justifies the abolition of grants.

The majority of law undergraduates are lucky enough to come from a relatively prosperous middle class background. These individuals are likely to benefit from at least some family support. (That cannot be assumed to be true across the board, of course.)

However, there are those of us who come from less well-off backgrounds. The legal profession cannot be allowed to become the preserve of the well-off middle classes.

How much will the new system will add to people's debts? Again, a very difficult question.

For those who previously relied on the grant, the new loan will add £3,400 to the existing debt mountain. Those who relied on the grant are most likely to be the same individuals who have relied most heavily on SAAS loans to fund their undergraduate studies. That might be, for example, £4,000 per annum. So the total debt owed, as it were, to the taxpayer is potentially in the region of £19,400.

Of course, one must consider that the cost of the Diploma has nearly doubled in recent years. When I began my LLB, I expected to incur a fee of around £3,500. Today, students can expect to have to pay around £6,000. In Aberdeen, the fee is £6,500. The new loans will not cover the cost, and those who need to rely on the loan are likely to have to find additional funds elsewhere. A student is likely to struggle to find a £3,000 unsecured loan from the bank.

If a student is successful in securing these (loaned) funds, the overall debt figure might well be in the region of £22,400.

Perhaps the greatest practical problem arises for those who cannot meet the shortfall between the loan amount and the course fees from their own savings. Such individuals are likely to struggle to make up that shortfall. Particularly in the current economic climate, it might well be quite tricky to persuade the bank to lend £3,000 without security to a student who does not have a concrete assurance of employment post-Diploma.

In short, there will be many LLB graduates who will not be affected by the change. But the changes will severely affect those graduates from lower-income backgrounds. There is therefore a very real risk that the profession will become narrower in terms of social and economic background.

Ryan Whelan, trainee

There are a considerable number of graduates that currently miss out on the grant, which is awarded on the basis of academic merit, and who, generally having not secured a traineeship, are not willing to take the gamble of incurring (often further) debt to pursue the Diploma.

Family support is to varying degrees almost universal for those at law school. In relation to the Diploma specifically, most, even those who have acquired a grant or loan, need to rely on some degree of family support for the living expenses necessary to undertake the Diploma. Those who are unable to do so either incur more debt or, often with difficulty, work longer hours in part time jobs to support themselves. This appears far from easy given the attendance now required of those on the Diploma.

The need for family financial support is exacerbated amongst those who require to live away from home in order to undertake the course. Often it is assumed that moving is a choice for the student and that they should therefore bare the cost. This is misguided. It is quite simply not always the case that those who move for university (or solely the Diploma) are doing so through choice: what, for instance, of those from towns across Scotland without a university, or those who fail to secure a place at their preferred local institution? The cost of living away from home or commuting is in itself substantial; adding university fees of circa £6,000 to this will render it unattainable to many, and a struggle for most.

I think that the new system is misconceived and poses a real danger to the advancement of the profession by depriving it of some talented individuals. The point must be made that the Diploma is not a choice for those wishing to practise law, it is a prerequisite – the door through which one must pass to enter the profession. For there to be no funding opportunity is absurd and I stand alongside those who believe that the Government's decision is ill advised.

Philippa Greer, Diploma student, Edinburgh University

I did receive a grant from SAAS; however it doesn't cover the entire course fee and there is no access to maintenance loans from SAAS as we are classed as doing a second course of study. This is something that I have been disheartened by as friends who have gone on to pursue second degrees in medicine have been able to access full maintenance funding from SAAS for such years, yet there is nothing for us for the one year Diploma.

Being a student who came from a state school and from the first generation in my family to go to university, Diploma funding is an issue. I received a bursary and loan throughout the degree and without it wouldn't have been able to access university. The Diploma grant is helpful, but it is not enough and taking it away altogether is unfair to those to whom it matters. However, as it is granted based on academic merit, it hasn't actually on the whole gone to people who need it anyway. Most people on the course are lucky enough to be funded by parents, but others have to "grin and bear" debt to do the Diploma. We were also warned from our first day that having a job whilst doing the full time course is next to impossible and that if we planned to do so we should undertake the two-year part time course.

Eamon Keane, final year LLB student, Dundee University 

I think it is important first and foremost to remain objective throughout any discussion or debate about the changes to the system of funding. For a start, from what I can gather there has been quite a bit of hyperbole from many who have tried to anticipate the effects of these changes. It has to be remembered that under the old system less than half qualified for grant funding. Further, the fee award itself only covered roughly half the cost of undertaking the Diploma in any event. With all of this considered, arguably the changes may actually improve access to funding for students.

However, in my opinion, there is a very real risk that students from poorer socio-economic backgrounds may be discouraged from undertaking the Diploma as a result of these changes. Student debt is steadily increasing and with the current depressed state of the traineeship market, I do believe that some students who may have considered undertaking the Diploma speculatively, in the hope of securing a traineeship during their year of Diploma study, will now decide against furthering their career aspirations in the legal profession instead of taking on even more debt. This will have a negative effect on diversity in the Scottish legal profession and that will bring with it some serious implications.

It is imperative that the Diploma providers, SAAS and the Law Society of Scotland ensure that financial support exists for these students who cannot rely upon family support or other forms of lending. In my opinion I’m not convinced that current provision for these disadvantaged students (e.g. through the Pritchard Trust and/or university hardship schemes) is adequate. I’ve written in the past about the Government’s role in all this; frankly I think the decision to take such a radical step in changing funding without proper consultation is wholly unacceptable.

Family support? From what I can gather a substantial number of students who take the Diploma course are ably to rely upon some form of family support. This varies greatly from help with rent through to the payment of course fees, and it is of course difficult to define and quantify this support exactly.

It should be remembered also that many other students are also forced to take out "career development loans" from high street banks, or are forced to work part time in order to pay for the year. It appears that the Diploma providers are beginning to react to this reality, and it’s good to see the number of two-year part time Diploma courses on offer rise this year, along with increased flexibility in content delivery.

Does it make it fairer that basically everyone on the Diploma will be able to get a loan? This is an interesting angle I’ve seen put forward to an extent by the SYLA. Personally, I’m not convinced. As I said at the outset, objectivity is important in this debate and of course it is undeniable that slightly more students will now have access to loan based funding under these changes. There is of course an inherent value in that.

However, I still stick to the view that these changes are going to impact negatively on a small selection of students who do not have the luxury of relying on their family for financial backing, and unless adequate provision is made for these students, then we are facing a pretty grim looking situation where those who cannot afford to run the risk of undertaking the Diploma will be put off considering a career in law. That’s pretty worrying, if you ask me.

Also under the old system, award was based on merit. I must admit it was somewhat additionally disappointing to learn of the changes in this regard because it was consistently repeated to us in first and second year that our performance would determine funding when it came to the Diploma. Many worked incredibly hard in order to guarantee they would secure funding and it now feels as if a promise has been broken to an extent.

Thoughts on the future of the Diploma: I have only heard positive things regarding the course at Dundee, the general consensus being that it is well taught, well run and good value. I am looking forward to getting started learning about the practical application of the law, as in my opinion there is far too much emphasis placed upon the "academic" side of the LLB in Scotland today. As an undergraduate law student you spend four years learning abstract theory. Its relevance to practice is severely limited and overall practical benefit highly questionable, but then again I suppose that is a different question for a different day! I do think we will start to see major developments in "clinical" legal education in Scotland over the coming years.

As regards the future of funding of the Diploma I’m unsure. For a start, I think law firms should contribute more towards future trainees’ costs. There seems to be great variance across the board in this regard. Of course no one wants to depress the market for traineeships further, but I can’t identify a logical reason why firms shouldn’t be made to invest more in this stage of their future employees’ training.

I’ve always been puzzled myself by the standing and the format of the Diploma. It is certainly a somewhat strange concept when you examine the position of the other professions (e.g. medicine or dentistry), where training is undertaken as part of the degree. Perhaps more radical proposals are needed to down the line. How about incorporating somehow a distinction between a professionally qualifying LLB and a purely academic LLB ? The student could elect what type of degree he or she wanted to pursue after say two years at law school (midway through their degree)? There is certainly plenty to think about.

Jodie Chandler, final year LLB student, Aberdeen University

Many students begin their study of an LLB with the intention of practising as a solicitor. When I began my degree almost four years ago, a lecturer asked how many students wanted to become a solicitor and was met with a show of hands from the large majority of the class. The harsh reality is that many of those who raised their hands would no longer do so; one, because of the current discouraging job climate and availability, or lack thereof, of traineeships; and two, because of the unavoidable expense met by each student who wishes to study the Diploma. Without the grants and funding formerly available to those wishing to study the Diploma, there is undoubtedly an increase in the number of students who, despite having the academic ability to study the Diploma, cannot do so because of the financial output.

The financial circumstances of law students are hugely varied. Many however are in the fortunate position of being able to rely on financial support from their families. For those who are in a less fortunate position, the Diploma is likely to have priced itself out of their option range. Even those who have juggled many part time jobs whilst studying their law degrees are far from likely to have saved enough to pay for the Diploma, meaning that if they want to pursue their dream of practising as a solicitor, they must incur a debt of at least a few thousand.

As a student at the University of Aberdeen, it is evident that many would-be lawyers are put off by the expense of the mandatory Diploma, and are instead attracted by the graduate opportunities available, particularly in the oil companies to be found in the oil capital of Europe. Perhaps quite rightly so. Competitive starting salaries and promising career prospects undoubtedly beat leaving university with increased debts and the lower starting salary of a trainee solicitor.

With the current climate and opportunities for traineeships being so low, I consider myself to be in the rather fortunate position of having a traineeship offer for 2013. This has however meant that I have had to broach, rather awkwardly, the subject of funding the Diploma with my parents. It is an outgoing which has drastically increased in price due to funding cuts and which neither I nor my parents expected to incur when I began university. I suspect many other students have had to have the same conversation with their families. I believe the majority of students will fall into one of three categories. Some will readily have the financial support of their families; some will receive financial support from their families although perhaps slightly less comfortably or perhaps not covering the entire expense; and others will simply have to change their career paths or be faced with a loan and the debt that follows.

I understand the dichotomy in opinion on funding for the Diploma being entirely loan based. The criteria for a loan are less strenuous than that for a grant, meaning more people will have access to funding by means of a loan. However scrapping grants will have the highest impact on those who are financially worse off and are likely to already have high debt and loan interest. In the long run, the effect is on the legal profession who will no longer have a diverse range of graduates applying for traineeships but only those from middle class families that can afford to pay for the Diploma. It is a crying shame that the stereotypical lawyer from a privileged background will dominate the legal profession and those from backgrounds considered "non-traditional" will face greater difficulty in pursuing a legal career.

The Aberdeen Law Project, Scotland's first wholly student led law clinic, recently launched an initiative called the "Ambassadors Project" which sees law students provide information to school pupils on studying law and the career paths available to law students. The project ultimately aims to encourage pupils from "non-traditional" backgrounds to pursue a career in the legal industry. This is to encourage against the stereotype that the middle classes produce the best lawyers. The project's aims however may face difficulty in their implementation by the unavoidable but high cost of the Diploma.

LEADS GROUP DISCUSSES CHANGES IN DIPLOMA FUNDING

Learning and Development Scotland (LEADS) is an independent forum, which has recently been established to support learning and development within the Scottish legal profession.

LEADS members represent a cross section of the profession, drawn from all areas, and the group is open to join. Over 100 solicitors, HR professionals, university representatives and training providers are involved. Members are free to participate in quarterly meetings. The purpose of LEADS is to share knowledge on all legal training and professional development issues. Towards this end, the group has adopted four specific objectives:

  • To act as a think-tank and pressure group on all training and professional development issues;
  • To provide networking opportunities;
  • To enable knowledge sharing; and
  • To support learning and development.

The agenda at the most recent LEADS meeting on 2 February 2012, concentrated on the new funding arrangements for PEAT 1/Diploma places for the 2012-13 academic year.

The group discussed the removal of the 300+ Government funded grants, which are to be replaced by student loans, made available through the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). The implication, of course, is a change in who will meet the costs of the Diploma in the future. But what effect will this have on the type of candidate coming into law and the profile of the legal job market? Essentially, there will be three options available in the future:

  1. The student meets the Diploma costs, through a SAAS loan or by alternative funding
  2. The employer (if there is one) pays in total, representing a new departure for the Scottish market; or
  3. There is a sharing of the costs by the student and the employer, a reflection of what happens in parts of the market at the moment, but on a smaller scale.

Any move towards employers meeting the costs, either in whole or in part, would be a new development for most of the Scottish market, with knock-on implications. One possible outcome could be that those students who are better able to afford the fees, or to repay a loan, will be less affected. In turn, this may have a negative impact on the general composition of the profession, and dilute the current drive to promote greater diversity across the board. From the employers’ perspective, if it becomes practice to fund or partially fund Diploma costs, this will increase the net cost of a trainee to the business, and could mean a drop in the number of trainees hired.

Another possibility is that, influenced by the current English market, the top-end commercial firms (not all necessarily trading in the Scottish market ) will start to fund course fees and living expenses. This may be a threat to parts of the traditional Scottish recruitment market, where firms with a strong training brand have been able to recruit preferred Scottish graduates. It could result in greater movement south, or further afield, from high performing graduates.

The LEADS group also discussed the balance between the numbers of Diploma places and training contracts available. Currently, there is an underprovision of traineeships, with approximately 480 contracts being taken up across Scotland this year. There are a great deal more Diploma places. It seems likely that this gap might narrow with the disappearance of grants. One law school, Stirling, is already dropping the Diploma. Longer term this could mean further changes to the qualification structure, despite the fact that implementation of the education review has only just happened.

LEADS will continue to discuss this topic and lend support to its members as matters develop.

LEADS is facilitated by the WS Society. For more information on joining the group please contact Anna Bennett, Director, Professional Services at the WS Society: abennett@wssociety.co.uk
 

 

 

Pritchard Trust applications invited

The Pritchard Educational Trust, established to assist those of academic ability who wish to qualify as solicitors in Scotland but who, through financial constraints, are unable to do so, is inviting applications for the academic session 2012-13.

Particular emphasis is given to those about to undertake PEAT 1 (the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice). The grant will be for such period as the trustees determine. Their decision may depend upon academic achievement.

Forms are available at www.lawscot.org.uk/becomingasolicitor/students/grants,-trusts--funding

Applications should be made to the Pritchard Educational Trust, c/o Heather McKendrick, Education & Training Department, The Law Society of Scotland, 26 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 7YR, or by email to careers@lawscot.org.uk

 

The closing date is Friday 29 June 2012. Grants will be awarded in September/October.


Have your say

Your comment

William McIntyre

Thursday March 29, 2012, 09:14

Law graduates will learn more in a week in a legal office than a year in the diploma. Another thing - why are new solicitors being asked to pay full-time rates for a part-time course?


Ana

Tuesday April 10, 2012, 16:36

What a nightmare! I was 29 when I paid the final instalment of my uni debts. That was despite surviving the recession in a commercial firm and receiving SAAS funding for the Diploma. Meanwhile, friends who made wiser career choices are on to second homes and nicer cars.

I can't begin to imagine how soul-destroying it will be for lawyers qualifying under the new payment regime. It just doesn't seem worth it. Most legal work isn't even that interesting!


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