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Law firm charges wannabe solicitors thousands for homemade diploma and internship

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Exclusive: The very expensive fortnight may leave students in more debt and still jobless

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A niche London practice is pitching a £2,000 homemade diploma at law students who haven’t secured training contracts, but who are keen on the bright lights of media law.

New Media Law — which is based on the fringes of London’s Soho — is gearing up for the second year of its media and business affairs “diploma”, with 25 takers apparently already on board for the fortnight course this June.

According to the firm’s website, the course is aimed at law degree and Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduates keen on securing training contracts in media law firms. In a statement to Legal Cheek, the firm said its offering was also aimed at authors, musicians, actors, film directors and producers wanting to know more about the law in their various fields.

At a time of falling training contract numbers — statistics released this week by the Law Society show that training contracts have nosedived by nearly 12.5% over the last decade — the firm would appear to have something of a marketing success on its hands, having claimed to have more than doubled the number of takers from 11 on last year’s launch course.

Nonetheless, the course — which is promoted on New Media Law’s website (pictured below) — will raise concern in some quarters as it arguably encourages LPC students without training contracts to dive into an even deeper hole of debt. And more traditional course providers might not react well to a law firm jumping onto their patch and competing for market share.

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New Media Law told Legal Cheek that “in most cases” it offers a one-week unpaid internship to all those on the course. However, the firm said it reserves the right to refuse an internship if the partners take the view that a student would not benefit, would not be suited to the firm, or the firm did not have enough intern places available.

In addition to the diploma, New Media Law says that it has an unpaid intern programme running year round, with some progressing to employed paralegal roles.

According to one the firm’s founding partners and a main driver behind the diploma, Ian Penman, four have gone on to be offered training contracts.

The course — which is also open to practising lawyers — is not accredited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) because, said Penman, the SRA is phasing out its historic continuing professional development requirements.

“We did not feel it appropriate to gain SRA accreditation,” he said. “The diploma is the certificate that we award attendees who pass the course. The end of course examination is not extremely demanding, but it would be impossible to pass it if one has not attended the course and listened to pretty much every word. The higher grades offered … are not easy at all.”

Explaining the rationale behind the diploma, Penman told Legal Cheek:

“We have often discussed the lack of a good copyright/media law-based course — exclusively lectured by experienced practitioners in their fields, which deals with media/entertainment law in central London. We decided to offer one ourselves, as we concluded that there was a need for it.”

Until last week, New Media Law’s website stated that the course was conducted at the University of Westminster.

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But it has since been amended to describe its location more generally as in “central London”.

A spokeswoman for the university told Legal Cheek that Westminster was not linked to the course apart from letting the law firm space to provide it.

New Media Law’s Penman has lectured on the Westminster University LPC for the last two decades, having written that course’s entertainment and media module as wall as having co-written its e-commerce module.