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Over two-thirds of law applicants are female

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UCAS data shows almost one in ten of all applications are for law

Over two-thirds of all law course applicants this academic year are female, according to data sourced from university admissions service UCAS.

Some 69% (107,085) of law applicants in 2021 were women, compared with just 31% (48,065) of men.

The number of female applicants across all law-related courses has been steadily increasing for years. Comparing the data to a decade ago, male applications have only risen by about 2%, compared to a 41% jump in female applications.

Law courses made up 9% of all applications submitted to UCAS in 2021, with almost one in ten applicants applying for law-related courses, whether single or combined.

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Speaking to the BBC ahead of applications opening last year, UCAS chief Clare Marchant said there has been “more attraction to courses which have an obvious career path”, such as law.

The UCAS data, collated by criminal defence firm Lawtons, further shows almost half of all students applying to study law in the UK are from outside of the EU while EU applicants dropped by 40% in the last year.

EU student numbers fell from 22,255 in 2020 to 13,145 in 2021, due in part to pandemic-induced border controls and Brexit complications, according to the analysis.

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20 Comments

anon

1 in 10 applying for law because there is ‘more attraction to courses which have an obvious career path’.

This was one of the problems with my comprehensive education. At no point did my teachers inform me that, if you’re applying for a job in law, it probably doesn’t matter if you’ve studied law or history, geography, politics, economics, classics, theology etc. Instead, I was told to apply only for law because it’s more ‘prestigious’.

Compare the acceptance rate for Oxbridge law to history, geography or classics. The latter courses have acceptances rates of 30%-50% and are about as difficult to get an offer from as law at other top universities. That’s not to say that those courses at Oxbridge necessarily ‘trump’ law at any other university requiring top grades, but it does illustrate the point. In the same way, the acceptance numbers for law at the London Unis, Durham etc. are also far stricter than those for general humanities.

If I had my time again I’d probably just apply for geography or something.

(48)(2)

A Wilk

Whilst I agree with the beginning of your post, you lost me at 30-50% acceptance rate.

History at Oxford has a 23% acceptance rate, Geography is 20%. Classics is more complicated. The overall acceptance rate is 40% but this is skewed by the majority being Classics I (applicants who did Latin or Greek at school). If we are talking about state school applicants, then the vast majority will be Classics II applicants (new to latin/greek), with a much lower acceptance rate.

Your tone suggests that you’re somewhat bitter about getting rejected from Oxford. It’s easy to tell yourself that you would have gotten in for a different subject.

If getting in for Law at other top universities requires the same intelligence as non-law Oxbridge, then you would presume that your career progression would not be hindered. But employers take graduates after their university education, and not at age 18. And so maybe there is something extra to be gain from an Oxbridge education.

(3)(6)

anon

I’m more familiar with the Cambridge acceptance rates. When I applied a few years ago these were the percentages. I don’t really care to keep up to date with them, but I did a quick google and the figures I provided appear accurate – they are above 30%. So I’m not bitter about getting rejected from Oxford because, well, I didn’t apply to Oxford. Do you go to Oxford/aspire to go to Oxford by any chance? You’re very defensive about the acceptance rates.

And no, I don’t care – I’m trainee at a US firm and too busy to worry about what people think about the university on my CV. I’m making the point that I’d rather have studied something like geography than law and it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference to my life or prospects – but it probably would’ve been more interesting and easier.

Don’t worry you’re a very special boy for going to Oxford

(5)(5)

From a galaxy far, far away

I was really surprised to find out (after starting a law degree in this country) that lots of people here just did a one year conversion course… I’m not sure that route exists anywhere else in the world.

While I sometimes wonder if I would have enjoyed another subject more, I genuinely feel that spending years properly learning the foundations of contract, tort, trusts etc helped me. I feel more confident that I know what I don’t know, i.e. won’t make disastrous mistakes because I don’t recognise gaps in my knowledge. I once met someone who did the GDL, practised mainly land law (competently so far as I could tell), and didn’t know you couldn’t get damages for distress in a normal negligence claim. It just didn’t occur to them that there may be any issue with this.

Some employers will automatically select whoever got the highest mark at the most prestigious university (even if they studied Scandinavian basket weaving). This can be frustrating and I’m not sure what the solution is, but something is very wrong if people need to actively avoid studying law to increase their chances of a successful legal career.

(3)(6)

Tuka

Double standards, we need more male applicants for a fair and balanced ratio.

(48)(11)

Anonymous

I’m sure those calling for gender equality will be calling for this to be addressed.

(35)(10)

anon

I really don’t mean to be insensitive or anything.

But I always see loads of campaigning for women in law and enoucraging more female representation in the legal industry through various events/intiatives. Aren’t we at the point where, as well as law students, there are already more female lawyers than male lawyers?

Shouldn’t the focus be equality accross the board instead of initiatives, events and engagements aimed solely for female lawyers?

(44)(6)

Ummm

Check the attrition rates for women in this field

(20)(10)

Ummmer

What is the reason for those attrition rates, that’s what should be checked?

(12)(0)

Barrister

You can have law back in a few hundred years. Men have had their turn.

(2)(5)

Anonymous

So you’re pushing a gender discriminate movement against men then, with absolutely no interest in equality?

Barrister

Studies have concluded it is sexism, harassment, lack of support at work and home, and frustration at seeing mediocre men getting promoted for sucking up and/or bignoting themselves and/or having the same school tie.

(1)(6)

Dunc

What about the attrition/burnout that men face in this field or almost any other field because it has been consistently proven that men work far more hours than women do?

(26)(18)

Barrister

Because they don’t have a second job doing housework and raising kids?

(3)(4)

JAX

An obvious career path? Since graduating, within the space of about 5 years, there were solicitor apprenticeships for 18 year olds who finished their A levels that combines theoretical with the practical such as on the job training. Even the SQE came in and upended the whole landscape as you do not even need a law degree to do the SQE. The Prep course would be like a GDL as opposed to be drowning in books and chapters on the LLB.

How many of these universities even highlight the additional costs? From my experience they never mentioned the additional costs that come with it such as the LPC or the administrative fee to do an unpaid placement on a placement year which involved administrative work, which you can not take to the next level as the LPC gives you the practical skills. I guarantee that they wouldn’t as it would discourage. It is just so sad, how foreign students that have completed their degree in their home country are steered in to doing a law degree as opposed to a GDL or a much shorter LLB. I know someone who had their degree from Canada, completed a 4 year law degree with placement ion international fees in London UK and the whole time the GDL was available at a much much lower cost. Then completed the BPTC and is doing an LPC now with massive amounts of cash expenditure with no training contract lined up. It’s likely they will need to an SQE 2 further down the line. But it is an utter mess.

In this day and age information is like currency, you end up saving a lot of heartache with information.

Personally I do have some regret of doing a Law Degree. If i could go back in time i would have done the GDL either part time or full time. It is just so mind numbing how they are no courseworks and a dissertation for something that has the equivalence to a law degree with so many more assessments and at much higher cost with so much fluff.

And those that have spent 15k to do the LPC only to exempt them from the first stage of SQE 1 will still have to do a SQE2 at additional cost. The mind just numbs at wondering what these organisations that are designed to increase access to the legal profession are even doing.

Even individuals that have done the LPC and cant get the training contract then proceed to pay for the CILEX fast track route. Now that CILEX route has closed. It’s shocking what career services are even bdoing at unis.

(10)(1)

Jax

Aren’t there only 6000 training contracts? Too many applicants very few places

(15)(0)

kkcup

Not everyone wants a TC

(0)(0)

well then

1 in 10 of ALL applications?! And I presume the bulk of that is undergrad. That’s a lot of students applying for a field with a very narrow “end-goal” (6000 Training Contract’s, 500 Pupillages).

Sixth-formers, beware! Its not like the one’s taking your applications will warn you.

(9)(0)

Realist

In true Blue Peter style, here’s something that I prepared earlier. I post it again, in the hope that a few people will be better informed having read it.

———

TL;DR. Health warning. Unless you have perfect grades, forget law – pursue another career.

TV shows and many newspaper articles portray law as an amazing career. Don’t be fooled: this largely survivorship bias: it’s like saying that retail is amazing, because Jeff Bezos is worth $$$$ and you’ll be just like him, or that working in Kwik Fit will turn you into the next Elon Musk. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for the vast majority of applicants to secure decent legal jobs. Law schools are churning out thousands of people every year who have been misled into believing that a lucrative career lies ahead of them (or, frankly, any career). In fact, the profession is creaking at the seams with desperate LPC and BPTC graduates who are squandering years of their lives as paralegals, with no realistic prospect of any return on investment of what they spent on legal education, let alone the years of their lives they will never get back. Such people could have been content with other, non-legal careers, but are now in thrall to the sunk costs fallacy: their arm is in the mangle, and they will spent much of their 20’s in low-pay, low-status jobs with no prospect of advancement, before giving up, accepting reality and changing career.

As a comment under this article: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/poorer-junior-lawyers-being-forced-to-choose-city-says-top-labour-lawyer/5109936.article warned, “This article doesn’t acknowledge just how hard it is to get a training contract at one of the magic circle firms or indeed anywhere that might provide help towards the cost of the time spent doing professional exams. Three friends of my early 20s daughter are aspiring solicitors with very good to excellent degrees from three different Russell Group universities. Each would interview well and each has funded a year’s conversion course. Despite many time-consuming applications, none have secured a vacation scheme place, let alone a training contract. One is now working as a paralegal and one in legal recruitment to earn money for the LPC.” Another following comment noted, “I was once the Training Principal at a City firm (not a household name) and there were about 100 applications for every single trainee place. Probably 80-90 of that 100 had ‘very good to excellent degrees from’ Russell Group unis. Of course all were applying elsewhere too, but the sheer volume meant the basic level of excellence you cite wasn’t enough on its own to lead to an interview. I’m sure it is the same at most magic circle firms, and at most (if not all) firms providing help towards the cost of qualification.” See also the related discussion at Roll on Friday, here: https://www.rollonfriday.com/discussion/when-do-you-tell-aspiring-solicitors-pack-it

Nowadays, only the truly exceptional (academically and otherwise) have a good chance of making it in law. The new qualification process with the SQE is poorly planned and likely to be a disaster. Qualification per se will be worthless, all that will matter is where people spend the early years of their career. The consequence will be to make those who train under SQE less employable in the long term, unless they win the jackpot at the start of their career by qualifying into a high-end law firm. Effectively, the new system will cement a ‘two-tier’ structure for lawyers, with the majority of those who qualified superglued to the bottom of the ladder. The publicly-funded legal sector in particular has been gutted over the last 20 years. For example, see this 2009 warning by Alex Deane of the reality of being a criminal barrister: https://www.lccsa.org.uk/crime-doesnt-pay. A decade later, this 2019 article by a newly-redundant criminal solicitor (more importantly, the comments underneath), shows that the position had only worsened: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/young-legal-aid-lawyer-shares-pain-over-redundancy/5070734.article. More recently, in May 2021, Derek Sweeting QC, chair of the Bar Council, warned: ‘There are far too many people doing bar courses and paying a great deal of money when the attrition rate… is so high. I can’t think of many other instances where you would train with such a low prospect of success. I don’t think the idea that we should have a vast pool for some sort of diversity reason is a good one. We need to be honest about how many people are likely to get pupillage.’ According to Bar Council figures, 3,301 candidates applied for just 246 positions via the pupillage gateway this year. https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news-focus/news-focus-bar-no-end-to-justice-emergency/5108599.article.

Further, law is not, generally, a well-paid career. 90% of jobs are poorly-paid, low status and lacking in security. City law jobs are a minority which create a very false image. Google ‘cravath bimodal’ for an insight into the reality of legal salaries: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=cravath+bimodal – and read the first dozen or so results. While the results you get will be US-focused, they also reflect the UK position. There is also a massive oversupply of candidates. This has been exacerbated because: (a) renaming polytechnics into universities has devalued ‘bog standard universities’; and (b) rampant grade inflation has rendered near-meaningless even 2.1s from the majority of so-called universities. Bluntly, you can only make money if you work for rich clients who want to spend their money on legal services. They are few and far between. Fighting for those coveted positions at the top end of the market, the standard of applicants is quite extraordinary. You can check this for yourself: use LinkedIn to read the CVs of trainees and junior associates in City firms – they almost exclusively have stellar academics. There are hundreds of such people fighting for each place. Why would a law firm give a training contract to someone who is academically inferior to the competition? In other words, you’re not competing against objective standards, you’re competing with every other person who also wants that job. (For aspiring commercial and chancery barristers, the path is even more brutal: successful candidates overwhelmingly have Oxbridge firsts).

This is ferociously competitive, and all CVs with red flags are automatically binned. Some people seem resent this, but are oblivious of the fact that recruiting takes time, time literally costs money for law firms, and so we won’t waste effort on anything other than exceptional CVs. In the firm where I qualified we received 200-300 CVs for each training contract place. The outsourced recruiting team were looking for reasons to reject as many as possible of them, so that only a tiny minority could proceed forward to video interview and then the assessment centre. Anything other than perfection is an excuse to bin you. Sorry, but that’s reality. Facts don’t care about people’s feelings – nor, bluntly, do we. The overwhelming majority of social media commentary just tells people to keep plugging away. That results in swathes of people squandering their 20’s in appallingly paid paralegal jobs with no future. Even those who manage to qualify need to cling on for several years until they have enough experience to be widely employable: when we recruit document reviewers for dull-as-ditchwater work spending 10 hours/day ploughing through Relativity, the calibre of the qualified solicitors applying to us is heart-breaking. Some people appear to have just been unlucky on qualification or shortly thereafter, and have never recovered. It’s truly brutal, and all the feel good nonsense on social media is a betrayal of people’s trust. We should tell them the truth.

What you can do without cost or risk is apply to law firms for sponsorship through training. If successful, congratulations, you’re 70% of the way there (noting that you still need to secure a job on qualification, and then retain it until at least 3-4 PQE when you know what you’re doing). If you can’t, for the love of God don’t self-fund yourself through law school, or indulge in years of dead-end paralegal or contract lawyer jobs: listen to what the market is telling you – they don’t want you.

I am not being nasty, I am being realistic. Well-intentioned careers advice online is dominated by both an air of unreality and an absence of commercial understanding. I realise of course that virtue signalling and the ‘boosterism’ of empty encouragement plays well on social media. In really though, it is self-indulgent, and serves only to mislead people about their actual prospects, and thus where in reality they should invest their time and money.

(16)(6)

Asso

You can tell who has a job and who doesn’t by the length of posts they make on Legalcheek on a Wednesday morning

(13)(3)

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