On Wednesday, Law Society chief Lucy Scott-Moncrieff revealed to Kevin Poulter that the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) is "almost certain" to identify non-graduate routes to qualification as a lawyer. With skills minister Matthew Hancock last month announcing a plan to develop a qualifying-apprenticeship for solicitors (in addition to the school-leaver route already open for legal executives), Scott-Moncrieff's words are the latest sign that entry to the legal profession will soon get more flexible. There is concern among some, however, that this could lead to the title of solicitor being cheapened...
Over Christmas, the announcement by minister for skills Matthew Hancock that school-leavers students will soon be able to become lawyers grabbed the national headlines.
At first, I assumed newspapers' enthusiasm for the story was based on the traditional festive lull. After all, only a few months earlier Hancock's colleagues in government had announced that they are to fund 750 new higher legal apprenticeships via a £1m investment.
Then I spotted the difference between the two pieces of news: Hancock was talking about training apprentices up as solicitors, while the apprentices whose funding was earmarked over the summer will become legal executives. I sense a storm brewing...
There’s more evidence of the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mentality that is coming to define this government in the ‘Unleashing the British Underdog: 10 Bets on the Little Guy’ report published by Dominic Raab MP today.
In the patronisingly-titled paper, the Oxbridge-educated former magic circle lawyer argues that it’s time to expand non-graduate opportunities in law because university is “expensive” and “devalues vocationally minded talent”.
Raab adds: "More broadly, we should ditch the snobbery that says you must go to university to be successful."
Magic circle firm Linklaters has hit back at critics who claim that City law is elitist by ushering in a ground-breaking initiative to get working-class people £15,000-a-year support service jobs at the firm.
The programme will see Linklaters team up with the London borough of Islington to find five apprentices for its print room, billing department, IT team, and HR and learning and development functions.
There's no route from these positions into gaining a training contract with the firm, but Linklaters head of diversity Felix Hebblethwaite left no doubt that the lucky five appentices would be treated in the same way as the firm’s lawyers (who start on £37,400-a-year as trainees):
“There's no commitment to a job afterwards but it obviously is some experience for their CV,” he explained.