In comparison to our odd system of legal education – which sprawls haphazardly from the undergraduate law degree to the CILEX apprenticeship option, via the super-condensed GDL, multiple breeds of LPC and the career graveyard that is the BPTC – the US way of doing things is alluringly simple.
In America, you can only study law as a three-year postgraduate degree. At which point you sit a Bar exam. Then you’re a lawyer. The downside is the inflexibility, slow pace and high cost (over £30,000 a year in fees alone at the top US law schools)...
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."
At the end of the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) symposium yesterday, I got chatting with Linda Jotham, a senior lecturer at City Law School.
As I groaned about the difficulties facing the LETR panel in coming up with a new system of legal education that keeps everyone happy – we’d just sat through a debate featuring solicitors, barristers, legal executives and academics who could hardly agree on anything – Jotham surprised me.
She told me that the earlier discussion group she'd been part of had come up with a win-win solution (based on an idea mooted by LSE's Julia Black).
Here it is...
The words of solicitor-advocate and Law Society council member Keith Etherington, as he recalls how the legal profession’s attitude towards sexuality has been transformed over the last few years in this week’s #RoundMyKitchenTable podcast.
Together with Legal Cheek's Kevin Poulter, Etherington is responsible for co-founding the lawyers’ parade at London Gay Pride – which takes place tomorrow.
Like a pair of children on Christmas Eve, Etherington and Poulter can barely contain their excitement about the parade – described by the latter as a "unique opportunity to be whooped and cheered by members of the public because you’re a lawyer".
Journalist Alex Aldridge is less enthused, attempting to dampen the duo’s spirits by assuming the role of devil’s advocate on a number of in-the-news topics, including church gay marriage and the legal action faced by the Law Society following its decision to cancel a conference by an extreme Christian group...
"Ooh, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC will be speaking," I thought as I read the flyer for Wednesday evening’s launch of the new higher apprenticeship for legal services.
So, keen to hear what the fiery Glaswegian had to say about the school-leaver route into law, I went along. But upon arrival, I was handed a grease-stained piece of paper telling me this:
Last week there was outrage on The Student Room when a poster likened barristers to doctors and solicitors to nurses.
Out of the ensuing maelstrom emerged two points of broad agreement:
Barristers are cleverer than solicitors ("a barrister could do what a solicitor does, but not necessarily the other way round”).
But it’s easier to make megabucks as a solicitor ("Your chances of making it to the top of the pile and earning a ****load of money are much higher as a solicitor than as a barrister in my opinion.").
Of course, it's not that simple, with different types of barrister and solicitor – not to mention legal executive – outranking each other
In search of some definitive truth on the matter? Here’s Legal Cheek's power list (focusing on how lawyers rank at the point of entry to the profession):
Young people are overconfident slackers who don’t have a clue about the real world, new research has revealed.
The joint study by the Financial Skills Partnership and Career Academies UK focuses in particular on youths’ ignorance about the growing number of school-leaver apprenticeship options being offered by large organisations.
It found that young people "believed they had a high level of awareness of apprenticeships, but further questioning revealed their knowledge was inaccurate and shallow".
The findings also suggested that young people were unthinkingly choosing university in favour of other options, such as unemployment.
Various top law firms, including Kennedys, DWF, and Pinsent Masons, have launched apprenticeships over the last couple of years. The programmes see school-leavers qualify as lawyers via the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) route.
Views about CILEX qualification vary – often provoking fierce debate among members of the legal profession, as I outlined in this piece for Guardian Law.
Want to find out if your knowledge about legal careers beats your average moron teen? Take the Legal Cheek test.
In February, I mentioned an advert for the London College of Law (not to be confused with the College of Law) in an article for the Guardian. I spotted the ad again last week in the Evening Standard (see below).
Earlier this month, Legal Cheek brought you news of the strange case of Marious Pimm, a Lincoln University law graduate charged with fraud for attempting to pass himself off as a barrister and a solicitor from his pop up office in a Peterborough pub.
Pimm, who had also embarked on legal executive training but had never qualified to practise, pleaded not guilty to the two charges against him – defrauding a total of £,5000 from a plumber and a woman helping her sister get a divorce – at his trial at Peterborough Crown Court. Having been found guilty on both counts, he was sentenced last Thursday to a year in prison...
The self taught Chinese ‘barefoot lawyer’ Chen Guangcheng may not have followed the Chartered Institute of Legal Executive (CILEX) path to non-graduate legal qualification, but for me he’s a legal executive in spirit.
Barefoot lawyer: like Chen, CILEX boss Diane Burleigh believes in staying grounded – even at official functions
Chen, who begins studying law the traditional way at New York Law School (NYU) this week, didn't experience any form of formal education until he was 13. Blinded by a fever when he was a baby, he would go on to become the first person in his family to attend university, where he studied massage and acupuncture – one of the only professions open to blind people in China.
On the quiet, though, Chen kept slipping off to law lectures – despite the fact that blind students weren’t allowed to graduate in the subject – and subsequently used the legal knowledge he had gleaned to help people back in his village.
With his family reading legal documents for him, Chen’s clients included a dwarf who had been refused a business licence because of his height and a family whose paranoid schizophrenic son had been classed as fully-functioning by the authorities...