Are we losing our lawyers?

Robert Addy, CRA
Robert Addy, CRA

With the pace of change in employment law as fast as ever, one thing is for sure – we need our employment lawyers to keep us on track.

However, The College of Law has indicated that law students are dwindling, with 20% fewer students taking up the Legal Practice Course (LPC) – a one year course that graduates must take before becoming a solicitor – last year. The College points to a shortfall of lawyers as early as this year, and 14 per cent more available training contracts in 2011 – 2012 than students passing the LPC. So what is happening?

There are cynics of course who say that it is no bad thing; that the legal profession is over-priced and over-powered anyway; that legal firms are simply taking on cheaper alternatives, such as paralegals and that it is simply hype from the College of Law – wanting to sell its high priced legal training (the LPC can cost more than £13,000) – in a heavily competitive market.

Graduates are not all convinced either, saying they simply can’t afford the cost. Many employers don’t provide funding any more so they have to find it themselves, on top of existing hefty student loans. They also indicate that training contracts are still incredibly difficult to come across.

Contrary to the College’s predictions, the Law Society is warning of a lawyer oversupply, saying that whilst there were 14,510 LPC places available in 2009-10, only 4,874 training contracts were registered between 1 August 2009 to 31 July 2010. It continues to warn students of the high costs and demanding qualification process.

Nigel Savage, CEO of the College defies the cynics saying “there’s so much misinformation out there and it’s putting off exactly the type of candidates we should be attracting”, and that other professions such as banking and accountancy are finding more innovative ways of recruiting the best talent.

Whatever the real situation, if history repeats itself, the College’s predictions could spell disaster for the recession-hit profession. Following the recession of the early 90’s an oversupply of lawyers soon turned into a shortage and although places were filled by a backlog of jobless graduates at first, the shortage eventually led to a battle for the best graduates and a huge jump in salaries. Some junior solicitors commanded salaries as high as £100k in the UK! Surely the market cannot stand that again?

lRobert Addy is a partner at specialist recruitment firm CRA Legal, providing high calibre candidates at all levels to the legal market. He can be contacted on 0114 241 8030 or at robert.addy@craconsultants.com. www.craconsultants.com