The College of Law is to re-brand as the University of Law after being granted university title, Legal Cheek can exclusively reveal.
As you can see below, the College of Law registered the www.university-of-law.co.uk domain name some months ago. However, the name change – and associated re-branding – has remained a well-guarded secret...
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)...
More crazy stuff from across the pond, this time involving an amateur porn model who has caused a storm by filming a 43 minute-long video of herself masturbating in the library of Ivy League law school Cornell.
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).
Yesterday's Evening Standard featured several letters – including, naturally, a missal dispatched from Legal Cheek HQ – responding to Wednesday's expression of concern by Bar Council chair Michael Todd QC that "too many students" are leaving law schools with huge debts and "no realistic prospect of pupillage". One correspondent even suggested that pupillage should be scrapped altogether...
I spotted this ad for the College of Law on the Tube at King's Cross yesterday evening – and nearly fell onto the tracks as I strained to read the spectacularly tiny small print at the bottom.
Fortunately, a jobless LPC graduate next to me on the platform agreed to venture down onto the tracks and take a picture to reveal what the small print said – in return for my promise of an introduction to a law firm about an unpaid paralegal internship and a spare 25p I had in my pocket.
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, the National College of Legal Training (NCLT) announced, to much fanfare, that it would be holding a "reverse auction" for an LPC place on its Facebook page.
"To enter, students have to sign up to the event and then log into Facebook on 27 May at 11am," NCLT explained. "We will post on our facebook wall the LPC fees which will gradually reduce throughout the day. When a student sees the fees at a level they are willing to pay, they simply have to be the first to write on the NCLT facebook wall 'I want that LPC!'."
27 May was, of course, yesterday. So what happened?
Yesterday I urged the assembled luminaries at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum to do something about the scandalous situation surrounding entry to the Bar (according to one estimate by the Bar Council itself, as few as one in eight students who do the BPTC get a pupillage).
Rather than go on about unsuccessful pupillage-seekers' misery, or law schools' fat profits, I focused instead on how bad it looks to the rest of the world that all it takes to get the title of English barrister is a spare £16k and a 2.2 degree.
This racket has been going on for a good while now, and internationally the message is sinking in that what is perceived to be the top legal qualification in England can be bought (in the US, on the other hand, where entry to Ivy League law schools is tightly controlled, becoming a top lawyer is seen as requiring brains)...
First, Richard Moorhead publicly slammed their less-than-brilliant research on advocacy in The Guardian. Then Legal Cheekexposed the dire financial straits their boss finds herself in.
The latest calamity to befall everyone’s favourite regulator of barristers?
Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students are blaming the BSB for screwing up the centrally set criminal and civil litigation and ethics exams they sat earlier this month. The wannabe barristers describe the exams as "disastrous" and "unfair" – and are worried their future careers could be scuppered as a result.
Senior members of the legal profession have a tendency to shy away from telling it like it really is.
But every now and again their true feelings emerge.
Last week at a College of Law debate on diversity at the Bar, a student asked a question about whether the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) proposal to bring in an aptitude test was fair.
Cue the usual bland responses from the panel of assembled experts, who included Helena Kennedy QC.
But something about the question hit a nerve in Sir Mark Potter, the former president of the family division and co-chair of the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR), who was sitting incognito in the audience. Rising unexpectedly from his seat, Potter requested a microphone...
Introducing Baroness Helena Kennedy last night at the College of Law's "Diversity at the Bar" debate, the school's chief executive Nigel Savage (pictured) played up their shared working class credentials.
“Helena and I benefitted from state-funded education. That’s over. Now what?” he asked, two floor to ceiling adverts for the College's BPTC (cost: £16,485) positioned just to his left.
Meanwhile, across town in the City, the ‘t’s were being crossed and ‘i’s dotted on the College’s sale to Montagu Private Equity – Savage’s latest coup...
Following the announcement by the Law Society that trainee solicitors on housing benefit is "not the type of image that benefits the profession", Legal Cheek editor Alex Aldridge and Bircham Dyson Bell lawyer Kevin Poulter discuss the wisdom of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) proposal to abandon the minimum trainee salary and pay rookie solicitors apprentice rates of just £2.60 an hour.
Is the Law Society being snooty?
Or does the status of trainee solicitors need protecting?
Poulter reckons solicitors should be treated as professionals rather than trades-people, but Aldridge isn’t so sure, pointing out that scrapping the minimum trainee wage would help the many legal aid law firms who currently can’t afford to put students through training contracts.
Of course, if you cut the amount trainees earn, you’ve got to cut the cost of legal education, right?
College of Law Moorgate students Cat Pond (pictured left) and Laurence Mills (pictured right) make the short journey east to Legal Cheek HQ in Hackney, where they find Bircham Dyson Bell lawyer Kevin Poulter and journalist Alex Aldridge in a panic about not being able to get the podcast mic working.
Displaying the sort of calmness under pressure that is highly valued by law firm graduate recruiters, the College of Law pair order Aldridge out of the building to purchase some wine to calm himself down. In the absence of the journalist's hysterical presence, Poulter recovers his calm and enacts Legal Cheek emergency procedures, commencing recording of a mono version of the podcast – which actually still sounds pretty good.
Ten minutes later a refreshed Aldridge returns to find the trio happily chatting away. Has the attention span of everyone under 25 been shot to pieces by the internet? Do LPC student Pond and GDL student Mills have no idea what traditional pastimes like sport and reading are like because they spent all their childhoods playing video games? Is College of Law Moorgate bitterly divided into two tiers, where students without training contracts are forced to make tea for those with jobs lined up?
Poulter, involuntarily assuming the role of fashionably-dressed uncle, elicits the answers to these – and many more – fascinating questions.
LLMs are intellectually tough, time-consuming and not all law firms like them, warns LegalAware
Students often look on an LLM as something they can do to pass a year while they look for a training contract or pupillage, boosting their CVs in the process. But the reality is that a masters degree in law is no easy option. And simply by enrolling onto an LLM doesn’t mean that students will definitely graduate with one – contrary to what many expect.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the LLM is harder than the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC), mainly because you’re spoon-fed much less and you have to do more independent research. The substantive law is also often harder, as masters degrees frequently require consideration of how lawyers operate in more than a single jurisdiction.
Often with LLMs, you also have to decide for yourself how many modules you are capable of studying (and, more importantly, passing in the final assessments). This can be hard to assess. You therefore have to be meticulous about organising your own time, and have an accurate assessment of your true ability. Students who have trouble doing this will struggle.
Professors Akhil Amar and Ian Ayres want Yale to be the first law school to reimburse students’ tuition fee loans if the student realises the opportunity for a successful legal career is doubtful while enrolled on the course – a scenario that has affected large numbers of US law students since the onset of the recession.
The origin of the plan lies in an anonymous US law students’ letter posted online two years ago. In it, the student wrote: “I am willing to leave law school, without a degree, at the end of this semester. In return, I would like a full refund of the tuition I’ve paid over the last two and a half years.”
BPTC students are up in arms about the wildly differing lengths of exam times between course providers.
Last Thursday City University gave its BPTC students just three and a half hours to complete their opinion writing exam. Yet students at competitor law school BPP will get four hours and 15 minutes when they sit theirs – an hour increase on the three hours and 15 minutes BPP gave its students last year. A spokesperson for BPP told Legal Cheek the exam time was increased “in response to student feedback”.
A Northumbria University BPTC student takes a short rest during her opinion writing exam
Kaplan Law School and College of Law students get around the four hour mark for their opinion writing papers, too. Meanwhile, Northumbria University gives its students a near trans-Atlantic flight length five hours in which to complete theirs.
Unlike trans-Atlantic flight passengers, though, Northumbria students “are free to leave at any time other than the first hour and the last 30 minutes,” according to opinion writing tutor Ross Fletcher.
Until recently LPC student Cat Pond was an empathetic, liberal type, but the law has changed her...
At the start of my GDL contract law course, the tutor told us to try and visualise the room and all the objects within it as connected by a web of contracts. The coffee cups sat in front of us were prime examples. As contracts for the supply of the cup, coffee beans and milk were both essential to its production. Then there was the contract we had entered into by purchasing the coffee. The tutor joked that we’d soon start seeing the entire world in this manner. Well, so far I haven’t quite ended up with Matrix-style powers to see legal symbology instead of reality, but a legal education certainly puts a particular spin on things.
As a graduate of the GDL who has now reached the half-way point of the LPC, I have studied contract, tort, land, EU, public, business and litigation law, so it might be fair to mark me as slightly elevated above ‘layman’ status in the legal hierarchy. The main symptom of this, to date, has been the higher incidence of violent rage I feel towards the Today programme these days. Every morning now I shout rowdily at a kitchen radio as James Naughtie’s latest victim tries to pretend that they’re "doing all they can"; my feelings heightened because, having studied law, I have a far better understanding of the framework surrounding these issues than I used to.
Taking a rare break from revising for his Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) exams, barrister-to-be Jack Smith travels east to join Legal Cheek editor Alex Aldridge and employment law whiz Kevin Poulter around a Hackney kitchen table (pictured).
“How do you get the balance right between studying and devoting sufficient time to pupillage applications?” Aldridge asks of Smith – who got a first in his law degree and is in receipt of a full scholarship from Lincoln’s Inn – while Poulter snoozes in the corner, nursing an appalling hangover after yet another night out on the town.
“Students these days, they have it so easy...” he mutters from time to time, before perking up at Aldridge’s mention of Camilla Duchess of Cornwall – one of a tiny handful of celebrities who Kevin (pictured with close pal Gok Wan) has yet to meet.
Is it right that Camilla was awarded the title of honorary barrister by Gray’s Inn on Wednesday? Aldridge thinks not (and blogging law student Little Explorer, who was at the ceremony to watch Camilla net her latest title, is similarly sceptical).
For the last few years, the College of Law’s (CoL) strategy has been to present itself as a high end establishment, while attempting to portray its rival, BPP Law School, as trashy.
Hence the CoL’s 2010 tie up with elite American law school Northwestern to launch a US law degree, and the frequent assertions in print and elsewhere by its chief executive, Nigel Savage (pictured), that BPP – which is owned by for-profit US higher education company Apollo – is a “sausage factory” whose degrees and professional qualifications “come with fries”.
Savage’s jibes have been so effective that, judging by BPP's recent opening of a Swindon branch, even the law school itself has started to believe them. However, the CoL has had much more difficulty living up to its pretentions to elitism – an uncomfortable fact illustrated by the embarrassing failure of its US law degree, which was dropped last week due to lack of demand. Not a single student even began the course.
As the legal education review continues, two Nottingham Law School lecturers are calling for a greater focus to be put on understanding students’ "emotions" and "feelings".
“Students are taught what the law is, not how to feel about it,” reveals the school’s reader in education Rebecca Huxley-Binns (pictured below). “They should be equipped to deal with these thoughts and feelings from the start.”
In no way is this cheap publicity-seeking by Nottingham Law School. Rather, it’s a serious bid to help students’ “mental worlds”, as Huxley-Binns’ colleague Graham Ferris makes clear:
This week Alex Aldridge is taking a barely earned rest from uploading blogs to Legal Cheek to go on holiday to Morocco. As he tries to sell Aunty Em for 2 camels and a leather bag, co-host Kevin Poulter takes charge of the #RoundMyKitchenTable podcast (for two weeks only), rebranding it #RoundMyDiningTable.
Joining him #RoundMyDiningTable is fresh faced (but very experienced) employment lawyer Laurie Anstis, of Reading firm Boyes Turner, and former colleague of James Blunt (i.e. he was in the army), current Magic Circle 'Outsourced Operations Manager' and law student, Neil MacKinnon.
As Christmas party season is in full swing, this week's podcast tackles that seasonal institution that instills fear in trainees and underlings across the country - for those lucky enough to work in firms able to afford a Christmas party that is.
Also up for debate is the two year combined LPC and training contract soon to be offered by Eversheds and new suggestions for sifting training contract applications.
Law graduates Flora Duguid and Cathryn Kozlowski have both opted to take gap years before doing the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in order to hunt for training contracts. Is this sensible? Or are they being overly risk averse?
In the meantime, Cathryn, who wants to work in media law, has turned down a paralegal job with a small firm specialising in family law. RoundMyKitchenTable co-host Kevin Poulter, a solicitor at Bircham Dyson Bell, is aghast at Kathryn’s decision.
But Guardian law journalist Alex Aldridge reckons Kathryn has probably made the right move, recommending instead that she have a look at options like Accutrainee, the new scheme that allows LPC graduates to qualify as lawyers by training at a number of different firms (although Accutrainee pays less than City firms and doesn’t necessarily lead to a full-time job). Flora and Kathryn are suspicious about Accutrainee, though – maybe a little too suspicious, in Alex’s view.
The quartet go on to discuss law firms’ obsession with A-level results and their practice of recruiting two years in advance.
Follow @pondcat Other than a short-lived campaign to occupy the Inns of Court, there are few examples of law students engaging with issues affecting the legal profession, says LPC student Cat Pond
During the recent public sector strikes, I was struck by the size of the turnout and the vehemence of the strikers. For many of them, this was the first time they had ever gone on strike - the government’s programme of cuts seeing them to take that final step of walking out.
The strikers’ very public expression of militant discontent started me thinking about whether the same drive to protest could lurk somewhere within law students. With the exception of 'OccupyTheInns', a law graduate who recently wrote several posts for Legal Cheek, I’m not aware of any law student campaign trying to affect change in the legal profession. In some ways, this is surprising. Surely it would follow that in exchange for engaging in the arduous legal education process and training contract or pupillage hunt, law students would want a say in the running of the legal profession?
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Check it out, man! It's Bonfire Night 2 and this time the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) is on the fire. Yes, the GDL is literally going up in spliff smoke. Sheff Hallam Uni has hotboxed its GDL to smithereens because it couldn't get enough monkeys students*.