The Society is trying to manage students' expectations of the prospects of finding a training place, but has also begun a free service to help match hopeful applicants with firms offering places

The decision each LLB student faces of choosing whether or not to apply for the Diploma in Legal Practice has never been an easy one, but in recent years the difficulty has become even more acute. Students are required to weigh up a variety of factors before taking the decision of whether to apply, including the availability of postgraduate funding; the prospect of securing a traineeship; financial concerns; and career ambitions.

Securing a traineeship has never been easy, but in recent times it has become even more competitive as the number of available traineeships has considerably reduced due to the downturn in the economy. The Society considers it vital therefore, that students are armed with relevant information and hard facts before parting with their savings or taking on more debt to reach the next stage of the route to qualification.

Tell it like it is

For the first time in 2009, and again in 2010, the Society issued a guidance note, as part of a package of measures to ensure students are supported throughout their route to qualification. The guidance note is distributed with all the application forms for the Diploma and is designed to lay out the realities students need to know if they do decide to proceed with the Diploma.

The Society considers managing students’ expectations to be vital throughout the route to qualification. What we hope to achieve by producing this guidance statement is that the students entering the Diploma in Legal Practice and then ultimately the legal profession will have made an informed decision to do so. The legal profession can be assured that those graduating from the Diploma are genuinely committed to entering the profession, and to do so, many have made tough decisions and sacrifices along the way.

Liz Campbell, Director of Education and Training at the Society, is delighted by the positive response the guidance note has had among the students and universities: “We produced the note for the first time when there were many uncertainties about the future of postgraduate funding for the Diploma, and wish to provide accurate information and facts. The guidance note has already proved itself to be an important element of the work we do with new lawyers. Our aim is to ensure students are making an informed decision about their future.”

In the past, around 70-80% of applicants to the Diploma secured a place on the course. In 2009 every applicant was successful. This is a strong indication of the fact that students are well aware of the current market position and the real risk of paying for a Diploma in Legal Practice with no guarantee of a traineeship at the end. Happily hundreds of Diploma graduates do commence a traineeship each year, but for some the training contract will elude them. The Society is working hard through a package of measures, to ensure the number of those Diploma graduates who will not secure a training contract is minimal.

Key resource

Part of this package is the new website This site, part of the Journal’s recruitment website lawscotjobs, is the first of its kind in Scotland and seeks to advertise available traineeships and summer placements through a central website. The aim of the site is to allow training organisations to advertise their vacancies and build awareness of the organisation among students and graduates. The site is free for recruiters and job hunters and is designed to encourage a wide range of traineeships and summer placements.

A Diploma student’s primary concern typically is securing a traineeship. The Society has recognised this and developed the site to meet a real demand from the student population. The site was launched at the end of 2009 and though it is in the early stages, it aims to become the first port of call for recruiters during 2010.

One Diploma graduate is delighted with the development of the site: “I completed my Diploma in May 2009 and had been looking for a traineeship for a couple of years even before that. I’ve used lots of websites and written speculative applications before, to no fruition. An advert for a vacancy in a firm in Inverness appeared on the site and I applied straight away. To my delight, I was successful and will be moving from Glasgow to Inverness to start my traineeship next month. The website is a great way of connecting training organisations with students and I hope other new lawyers will also benefit from it.”

Ensuring new lawyers have the information they need to make informed decisions, and helping them to build direct links with training organisations, are two of the key principles of the Society’s work with new lawyers, regardless of the economic climate. To read the guidance note visit For information on the new recruitment website visit .

  • Heather McPhee is Development Officer, Education & Training at the Law Society of Scotland
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