In a couple of short years, the typical Scottish solicitor is expected to be female, under 30 and educated at a state school. And so it was that I – aged 28, educated at Turnbull High School in Bishopbriggs – set aside a couple of hours from my desk day earlier this week to respond to a BBC request for an interview about a new report on access to the professions. And despite the half-hour notice and a few butterflies at the prospect of my first live radio interview, I was eager to answer the call. The reason? Simply, the Society and our members say positive things when it comes to access to the solicitors’ profession.
And hopefully that positive message came across on Radio Scotland’s lunchtime news. Certainly, the early morning coverage of former cabinet minister Alan Milburn’s report had focused on the finding that “low and middle income” children were increasingly excluded from professions such as the law, medicine and the civil service because of elitism. I was able to point out that the Scottish solicitors’ profession has its own story to tell.
No doubt the fact that we have a relatively small jurisdiction allows the Society to engage closely with schools and universities. And our own careers events have also changed in recent years to ensure a broad reach across the whole of Scotland. Other initiatives, such as the national debating tournament, have appealed to a wide cross-section of young people. In short, the Society is involved in a range of projects that aim to increase awareness of the law and ensure the widest possible opportunity to enter the profession.
The end result is that the profession is becoming more diverse – and increasingly representative of society itself. But more needs to be done to further raise aspirations and widen participation. With that in mind, the Society’s new framework for solicitors’ education and training will have a particular focus on greater flexibility of provision. The launch date for the new framework is 2011 – coincidentally, the same year that the average solicitor is expected to be state school educated for the first time.Collette Paterson is Deputy Director of Education and Training Policy