Master of the Rolls wants jobless law grads to represent litigants in person

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By Thomas Connelly on

Let aspiring lawyers gain vital experience in the courts, says Sir Terence Etherton


The Master of the Rolls has unveiled plans that could see law graduates struggling to land a training contract or pupillage represent litigants in person (LIPs) in court.

Speaking at LawWorks’ annual Pro Bono Awards yesterday evening, Sir Terence Etherton — who was officially elevated to the top judicial spot back in October — revealed that law graduates could help guide members of the public through the complex, and often confusing, world of the UK court system. Giving aspiring solicitors and barristers vital in-court experience, Etherton said:

There seems to me a good deal of force in the view that the proper administration of justice and LIPs would benefit from the assistance in court of such graduates.

The civil judge suggested law graduates could operate out of one of the many pro bono clinics across the UK, or even their own university advice centres. He told the audience:

[Law graduates] would have proper legal knowledge, skills training, be subject to professional regulation and also be covered by pro bono or university advice centres’ professional indemnity insurance.

According to The Law Society Gazette, Etherton explained how existing legislation would enable graduates — who are keen to bolster their CVs — to acquire rights of audience.

He further suggested that this would would be a “far better” method of tackling the rise of paid McKenzie friends, who do not need to be legally qualified and are often “unregulated” and “uninsured”

But law graduates would require some supervision according to Etherton. They would not only need to be “registered” with their university or advice centre, but also undertake special “training akin to that already given by such organisations”. Continuing, he said:

And [law graduates] would be supervised by lawyers — permanent employees of [advice centres] or other lawyers provided pro bono by law firms or chambers.

Unfortunately, the proposal hasn’t gone down well with some law students and lawyers. Commenting on the original story, one reader said:

This is a very bad idea. I’m a recent law graduate and don’t feel nearly confident enough to represent litigants in court.

While another member of the legal profession quipped:

Perhaps we could also have first year medical students undertaking surgery also?

Law graduates representing LIPs — good or bad? Vote below: