The future just became less enticing for wannabe lawyers
A formal withdrawal from the EU will not complete for another two years but with little guidance from our politicians, there is huge uncertainty over what will happen.
Christianah Babajide, currently studying at City University of London, talks to law students who have been left wondering what Brexit means for them and shares their worst fears:
1. Will training contract numbers decrease?
Earlier this year, there was actually good news for wannabe trainees when statistics from the Law Society showed an increase in the number of training contracts available from 5,001 in 2013-14 to 5,457 in 2014-15.
However, following the Brexit vote, the UK economy may well contract. Law firms could cut down on their trainee intakes or even enter a dreaded recruitment freeze.
On the other hand, though there is little doubt that there will be tremors in the economy, lawyers are sometimes (the only?) winners in a recession because of the increase in litigation.
2. Is there any point studying EU law anymore and will anyone be around to teach it?
Graduates who have already studied EU law feel they have “wasted their time”; first year students are “reluctant” to study the module next year; some fear that their EU law lecturers could lose their jobs.
However, as Legal Cheek’s Katie King pointed out earlier this week in her article, ‘Law lecturers reassure disheartened students that their EU law studies not in vain’, it looks like some of these fears can be allayed.
3. Is employment law still relevant?
Much of UK employment law derives from Brussels so students worry that it will be unpicked by Brexit (as do millions of workers across the UK). If this really were to happen then it would lead to drastic changes in the syllabus as well as result in a generation of students with a whole load of knowledge they don’t need.
But these laws are not so high on the Leave agenda right now; legal practitioners say that any drastic change is a long, long way off. And would it be the end of the world if we got rid of TUPE?
4. Could university funding be reduced?
Law students fear that leaving the EU will create financial challenges for their universities because UK’s higher education providers get nearly £1 billion a year from it. Statistics show this funding supports 8,864 direct jobs and £836m in economic output inside the university sector. So will EU funding disappear? If so, what does that mean? Will it be replaced?
There are a lot of unknowns that will only become clear if and when the UK agrees a deal with the EU. And who knows when that will happen. Anyone? Anyone at all?
5. Would I still be able to study or do legal work experience in the EU?
Many law students are concerned about not being able to travel abroad for postgraduate studies such as aspiring barristers going on to do their masters degree in Europe, particularly Germany and the Netherlands. Similarly, they fear they will lose the ability to take up internships or work experience on the Continent.
Certainly, trips abroad will be more expensive: one of the immediate consequences of a vote to leave was the value of the pound plummeting (£1 is currently equivalent to a paltry €1.21).
But it’s too early to say what Brexit means for study and work because they will depend on what deal we reach with the EU.
Professor Sir Paul Curran, Vice-Chancellor of City University, made some reassuring noises yesterday about UK students studying in the EU under one specific programme, the Erasmus programme, stating that they would continue to be eligible for their grants and there would be no immediate changes to their immigration status. Other universities and scheme administrators will hopefully be sending out similar messages of calm.
6. Will international law students have to confront greater prejudice?
One foreign law student claims Brexit has created a “social divide” between him and his UK friends leaving him feeling unwelcome within his social circle. Other students report feeling too scared to leave their student halls at night.
It has been widely reported that Brexit has opened a Pandora’s box of race-hate. It is up to all of us to stop this getting out of control.
7. Have law firms’ job interviews suddenly got a lot harder?
Students hoping to land a contract at a commercial or magic circle firm fear that the requirement for “commercial awareness” just got a whole lot more complicated.
They may well be right. Candidates will need to be up to speed on as many commercial and legal ramifications of Brexit as possible. However, if the current lack of information is anything to go by, this could mean becoming an expert in guesswork.
Christianah Babajide is an LLB student at City University.