This year is a year unlike any other in so many ways and this includes universities seeing an unprecedented number of applications to the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice.

Compared to last year, there was a 13% increase in Diploma applications and, unfortunately, this has resulted in the course being significantly oversubscribed and some LLB students not securing a place on the Diploma. We understand how frustrating it must be for aspiring solicitors to have their plans disrupted and to not be able to progress to the next stage of their career this year.

We’ve had lots of questions from students about this situation and so have pulled together the most frequently asked questions in one place to explain some uncertainties and signpost information and advice that we hope is useful for those who have not got onto the Diploma this year.

If you have any further questions, please get in touch with the careers team at careers@lawscot.org.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

The way that the six Diploma providers set the number of places available on their Diploma courses is the same each year.

At the beginning of the year, each of the universities decides how many Diploma places they will make available on their respective courses. The total number that each university decides upon is a decision taken independently of each other or the Law Society.

The number of Diploma places is decided well before Diploma applications are opened. We then promote this in our Diploma guidance note, virtual Diploma fair and in our presentations at universities.

While the Society accredits the Diploma, we have no influence over the running of the course, the number of students that a university accepts or which students are accepted.

Over the last couple of years the number of applications has been broadly comparable with the number of spaces on a Diploma course and, in many years, the number of spaces available exceeded the number of applications. However, this year, unfortunately that was not the case by some margin.

No. The total number of Diploma places available this year was much the same as previous years. However, this year has seen a historically high number of LLB students graduating and this has resulted in an unusually high number of applications to the Diploma.

Once universities and the Law Society were aware of the volume of applications received this year, we released a supplementary guidance note for students highlighting the situation.

In addition, we wrote to each Diploma provider. While universities control how many students they accept to the Diploma, they must abide by the accreditation standards set by the Law Society. This includes the need to assess the future job market when deciding how many students to accept to the Diploma each year.

Given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we advised universities that we anticipated the traineeship market would be seriously impacted and would be surprised if they chose to excessively increase their cohort of Diploma students beyond the intake number they had set at the beginning of the year. However, our guidance did not advise that fewer students should be accepted the Diploma.

No. As noted above, the total number of Diploma places available this year was much the same as previous years, but there were an unusually high number of applications.

While we have not received confirmed intake numbers from the universities, we anticipate that the number of students accepted to the Diploma will actually be slightly higher than in previous years. We understand that most, if not all, universities have accepted the full number of students that they originally advised they would take at the beginning of the year or slightly more.

We understand that this information will not help the students who were unsuccessful in securing a Diploma place. However, we believe it is important to advise and that it is imperative we are transparent with our future members.

No. While the Society sets accreditation standards for Diploma providers, we do not have the authority to control how many students the universities accept to their Diploma courses, nor which candidates are granted a place.

Although it might not be what you had planned, it is important to note that your LLB does not expire and will allow you to apply for the Diploma for years to come.

People’s careers are rarely linear. In fact, every year, we see people entering the profession who have undertaken an alternative career first.

As things currently stand, if you do apply for the Diploma again, you will be assessed against that new cohort of students applying in the same year as you. Application numbers may change in years to come and the process may also change.

If you are interested in doing the Diploma in future, we will continue to produce a guidance note and virtual Diploma fair to give you as much information as we can about providers, costs and market conditions, so you can make an informed decision about your options. This will continue to be published in the Diploma section of our website.

In addition, below is a collection of blogs from people who haven’t followed a ‘traditional’ career path to qualification, which we hope might be of interest.

We are working with Diploma providers to look at the current process. However, ultimately, as previously advised, the process for admission to the Diploma courses rests with the universities.

Your LLB can be a great qualification for other careers and we have some general information on our website about alternative careers with the LLB.

However, the best place to get support about alternative careers with your LLB and to assess your skills and options is your Careers Advisor for Law at your university.

Typically, graduates can continue to access support from their university careers team for a period of time after finishing a course, so you should be able to get in touch with them, even if you have left your university. Careers advisors may have an idea about the types of options open to you and can have an open conversation about your interests and strengths and help work out your next steps.

For example, below are a couple of blogs from people who did alternative qualifications as their next step:

Legal technology is also a big area of development at the moment and might be an area of interest for you to develop your skills. Some firms have legal technologist roles available for law graduates, which are a blended role between legal and tech.

Likewise, paralegal, legal assistant and legal secretary roles are also all open to law students to apply for, if you would like to get a role in a legal team. There are also ways to develop your career in this area, for example by becoming an accredited paralegal, or looking at freelancing paralegal options through a scheme like Vario by Pinsent Masons.

We hope this information has proven helpful. However, if you have further questions, our careers team is available to speak to you. You can reach us at careers@lawscot.org.uk.