The Law Society of Scotland has responded to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee report on widening access to the legal profession.
Liz Campbell, Executive Director of Education, Training and Qualification at the Law Society of Scotland said: “We want talented individuals who have the dream and ability to become solicitors to be able to do so, regardless of their background, which is why we’ve introduced a number of initiatives to help make that a reality.
We think it’s important that there can be different ways to qualify as a solicitor. We have already been working with Skills Development Scotland on the creation of a legal apprenticeship and would very much welcome assurances on government funding to allow this to be developed so that young people can go on to realise their ambition of becoming a solicitor.”
The Law Society has introduced measures to help improve access to the legal profession, including its growing schools’ Street Law programme and the Lawscot Foundation, a charity launched in 2016 specifically to help young people from less advantaged backgrounds. The Lawscot Foundation provides financial support alongside mentoring from practising solicitors, which is crucial in helping boost the student’s confidence, skills and knowledge. It has been greatly supported by the legal profession and it is now supporting 17 students over the course of their legal education.
The Law Society has identified existing barriers to the LLB degree and has said it is important that there is a focus on school attainment to ensure that bright, capable young people can pursue their career goals.
Currently students from less advantaged backgrounds are equally likely to start the postgraduate legal diploma required to qualify as a solicitor as their more advantaged peers, however the Law Society has said if evidence showed financial issues were a barrier to completion it would urge the Scottish Government to offer grants for this instead of the current loan system.
Law firms operate within a highly competitive environment and there can be fluctuations in the number of trainees and ultimately the jobs that they can offer. The Law Society provides information directly to students throughout their studies about traineeships numbers, as the final stage of qualification as a solicitor, and about the wider legal sector to help them make informed decisions about their future.
Liz Campbell added: “A law degree opens doors to a wide range of career options within the law and in other sectors. We want to ensure the solicitor profession remains an attractive career option so that people can obtain high quality legal advice when they need it. It’s important that all those involved in legal education and its funding continue to work to remove any unnecessary barriers for people who would be excellent solicitors in the future.”
The report, Training the Next Generation of Lawyers: Professional Legal Education in Scotland, is available to read on the Scottish Parliament website.