Law Society of Scotland Council members have today, Friday, 22 March, congratulated the Campaign for Fair Access to the Legal Profession (CFALP) for bringing forward detailed reform proposals and have agreed to give the plans more thorough consideration through its Education and Training Committee.
The campaign group, which has lobbied against Scottish Government changes to funding for the postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Practice, has asked the Law Society to commit to having a policy which ensures that the route to qualification as a solicitor does not create barriers to those from less privileged backgrounds.
Tim Haddow, who represented CFALP at the meeting, also asked Council members to consider undertaking further reform which would build on the revised route to qualifying as a solicitor, which was introduced in 2011.
Bruce Beveridge, Vice President of the Law Society, said: "Those involved in the campaign for fair access deserve congratulations, not just for bringing forward such detailed proposals but for their continued effort to keep this high on the agenda.
"It is important that we maintain the highest standards of education and training for those who wish to become solicitors. It is equally vital that everyone with the desire and academic capability to qualify has every opportunity to do so, regardless of their background.
"Clients seeking legal advice are now likely to find that their solicitor is under 30, female and state school educated. It's right that Scotland's solicitors should reflect the society they work within and represent, and potentially denying people who have the ability and drive to become a solicitor, but who may not have the necessary financial means, would be a real step backwards.
"We argued strongly against the Scottish Government's decision to drop all grant funding for Diploma students last year. While public budgets are tight, we still think there is a compelling case for direct grants for students studying the Diploma and will continue to make this case to Scottish ministers. In the meantime, we want to give the CFALP proposals proper consideration through our Education and Training Committee."
Council has agreed that the Society's Education and Training Committee should now consider the paper's proposals in more detail and bring its initial response to Council.
The Law Society of Scotland introduced a revised route to qualification as a solicitor in 2011 following a wide ranging review and full consultation, believed to be the most comprehensive within any jurisdiction at the time it took place. The revised route aims to make legal training and education in Scotland more flexible and promote outcome-based learning, while retaining the high academic standards and practical skills required to become a solicitor.