No hope of a job for most law school students

Most students at law school have ‘no hope of a job’

Behind the bar: Michael Todd, QC, has said ‘too many students’ are leaving law schools with huge debts and ‘no realistic prospect of pupillage’ (File photo)
Martin Bentham
06 June 2012

Law schools “let down” hundreds of students a year by taking on aspiring barristers who have no chance of joining the profession, the chairman of the Bar Council warned today.

Michael Todd, QC, said it was “a great concern” that the number recruited to training courses was “far more” than the number of pupillages available.

He said that meant students with “no realistic prospect” of being barristers were amassing debts of up to £60,000 in a trend that hindered the legal world’s efforts to improve social mobility.

His comments follow figures revealing that about 1,600 students a year now take the Bar Professional Training Course at British law schools, more than three times the number of pupillages available at barristers’ chambers — 446 places were available last year.

Mr Todd said that meant most of those taking the courses would fail to become barristers. He called on colleges to scale back the number of places.

“Too many students are emerging from law schools with £50,000-£60,000 of debt and no realistic prospect of pupillage,” he said. “Law schools which are not giving those students an accurate picture of their chances are letting them down.”

Mr Todd said a further problem was that students from poorer backgrounds were most likely to be deterred from going to law school by the low odds of securing a pupillage.

By contrast, those from more affluent backgrounds were more able to afford the gamble, making it harder for the Bar to improve the diversity of its recruits.

Mr Todd added: “It remains a great concern that law schools continue to produce far more graduates than there are pupillages available. This will do nothing to help the diversity and social mobility vital to ensuring our profession represents the society it serves.”

Graduates seeking to become barristers must complete the Bar Professional Training Course, which lasts one year for full-time students, and then secure a pupillage at chambers.

Although up to a fifth of law school students fail the course, the latest Bar Council report on admission to the profession says there is “very strong competition for pupillage places” each year — including from past failures.

Sarah Hutchinson, a director at training course provider the College of Law, accused critics of “scaremongering” and insisted employment rates were far better than portrayed.

She said a third of those taking the course were overseas students, many of whom had no intention of becoming barristers in the UK.

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