Greed is good?

Legal Week reports that three London law schools are raising their tuition fees

The Legal Week article states: Three of London’s law schools have considerably increased their Legal Practice Course (LPC), despite the widespread cost-cutting measures currently being implemented across the profession. BPP Law School has hiked annual fees for its London LPC students by more than 9% to £12,500, a move that means it remains the country’s most expensive law school. The college’s branches in Leeds and Manchester will see a more modest increase of 4.7%, from from £9,550 up to £9,995. Meanwhile, arch-rival The College of Law is set to introduce a fee increase of 8.8% as of September, meaning the LPC will set back a trainee lawyer £11,250, up from £10,340….”

I am particularly interested in your comments and views on this issue.  Let me put a number of points to reflect my own thoughts on this.

1.  Inflation is coming down and is set to be at the 2% mark fairly shortly.

2. Law firms are set to cut around 10%, possibly more, of their headcount – partners, associates and support staff – when the 2009 figures are compared with 2008.  This has been well reported in the press and need not be rehearsed further here.

3.  Britain and the rest of the world is facing possibly the worst recession since the 1930s.

4.  There is a general re-structuring of pricing in the profession, legal aid is being cut back severely and lawyers who practice in the fields of crime, family law and general common law, particularly,  are facing a severe reduction in fee income from public and privately funded work.

Against this background it is extraordinary, verging on unconscionable, that the leading law schools are hiking their fees so high. They cannot possibly be facing inflationary pressure from their teaching and support staff in these days when jobs are at a premium.  It is unlikely that they need significant bank funding, or any bank funding.  The accounts for  BPP Holdings PLC (owner of BPP law School) show strong growth.  Thompson Financial reported in August of last year: “BPP Holdings Plc. reported a 10 percent rise in pretax profits for the first half on brisk revenue growth across divisions and said momentum in the business remains strong and that it expects to report a good full-year result despite uncertain economic conditions.”

The College of Law is a registered charity and one assumes, not unreasonably given their success and market penetration that they too are showing growth in revenue and are well run and well funded.  Kaplan Law School is part of the very successful Kaplan group in the States.

It may be that these law schools, offering high quality courses, deserve their success and should not be penalised now just because the financial world has gone into meltdown because of the greed, venality and stupidity of the banking sector and a failure of governments to regulate. However, that being said, the fee rise proposed by these schools may well stick in the craw of the consumer… the students, let alone the City, Magic Circle and other large law firms who pay for their trainees to do the GDL and LPC.  I cannot for one moment imagine that law firm managing partners, who are currently shedding staff with the enthusiasm of a hungry rice farmer in a padi field, will embrace  these fee hikes with quite the same enthusiasm as the law school directors.

Giles Proctor at Kaplan has this to say: “I do not think we will see discounting, because students are increasingly demanding higher quality in their course provision. Students are customers, so should act like customers, and know exactly what they are getting in terms of higher quality offerings.”

Yes… students are customers and should be treated like customers – but they don’t have much bargaining power, they don’t have a great deal of choice of provision because even the traditional universities are in on the wonderful game of raising high revenues from law courses in these difficult days of government funding – so they have to pay the piper’s fees or go without.

LPC and BVC fees are soft targets for fee rises. For my part?… I think this round of fee hikes needs a bit more justification and explanation  than bland PR pushed out by these law schools. It may well be, of course, that there is a perfectly plausible and credible reason why these law schools have to increase their fees susbtantially above prevailing inflation each year and, of course, they too are welcome to comment on this post.

Over to you – I am definitely interested in what you have to say… in the comments section below…

28 thoughts on “Greed is good?

  1. Dear Sir,

    One must consider both the argument and the opposition.

    First, there is the argument.

    One might argue that, because law is becoming such a popular option amongst students, it is more difficult to ‘seed out’ the weak candidates from the strong candidates.

    The Legal Practice Course, in essence, is a demonstration of numerous different factors; commitment to the legal practice, financial stability and intelligence.

    The second point is one which law firms are most concerned with. Those who are able to place themselves on the Legal Practice Course will be able to (in the future) invest in partnerships and therefore be a good choice as a candidate.

    It is nothing more than a representation of the legal profession once more considering the value of wealth above the value of talent and hard work.

    To me, it seems that law firms are beginning to consider a ‘return to normality’, as it has been phrased, by 2011/2012. Those students hoping to graduate during that time will be key prospective candidates for law firms and they will want people with money.

    Onto the opposition.

    It is sad to admit that the government fails to provide adequate support as it is, with their ambitions to have the majority of all young people in university seeming to conflict with their approach to student finance.

    One of the problems is that the Legal Practice Course must be funded by oneself. It would be difficult to gain a loan for this course, particularly in the economic climate.

    It demonstrates that law firms and the law profession in general is not considering those who have talent but do not have the means to the profession.

    I, for one, am in a similar position.

    I am very concerned in regards to the increasing cost of university, the Legal Practice Course and the training contracts, all of which are hurdles in the road to becoming a successful lawyer.

    This is another nonsensical approach by academics to weed out those whom they do not want.

    It is a sad truth.

    Kind regards,
    Ian Caithness

  2. These schools are trying to copy US law school which have always raised tuition fees at higher rates than inflation. But now they are suffering as students are coming out with over $100k of debt and much less certainty on getting and keeping a job.

    The UK schools bank on law firms funding them by paying fees. However, BPP, College of Law, & Kaplan don’t have a monopoly on supply. All they have is a commitment from a set of firms that can change. Some of the other schools offering the LPC could challenge their supposed hegemony.

    It’s worth remembering that most students taking the LPC are self-funding. If rises in fees deter students then it could affect firms who don’t have supply arrangements with LPC schools. How would the Law Society respond to this?

    And here’s the nub. LPC courses are entirely regulated from outside by the Law Society. This means they aren’t academic in any normal sense; they are merely trade schools. (Unlike US schools which are both academic and trade.) So LPC schools are at the mercy of the regulator.

    The LPC has been investigated recently by the Training Framework Review which thinks that current LPCs don’t promote diversity. To counter this they are proposing opening up the training which will mean less emphasis on the “academic” component at LPC schools. One aspect of this is to include more experience and self-learning.

    One other development, little noticed, is the move by government to permit non-university institutions to award degrees. Imagine if large law firms became degree awarding institutions. Suppose you had the choice of a Clifford Chance law degree or one from BPP. Moreover, with the changes coming through GATS, we could begin to see more competition from US schools setting up here. US business schools are already doing this.

    All of this will be reinforced by the changes envisaged in the Legal Services Act which will reduce the monopoly of lawyers and by extension their academic institutions.

    Ultimately, institutions like the College of Law and Kaplan are taking a very short term view of their role in the future of the legal profession. You would think with their emphasis on learning that they would be able to reflect on this.

  3. Dear John,

    Thank you for a very enlightening view on the current legislation and thinking that is surrounding the LPC schools.

    Some of the information you presented was unknown to me (which isn’t a surprise!) and it has helped me to understand some of the technical details regarding this point.

    Kind regards,
    Ian Caithness

  4. Some interesting points Ian, but I’m afraid that your comment:-

    “The second point is one which law firms are most concerned with. Those who are able to place themselves on the Legal Practice Course will be able to (in the future) invest in partnerships and therefore be a good choice as a candidate.”

    doesn’t reflect the reality.

    Firstly very few (if any) law firms in the UK are looking at their trainee solicitors as “investors”. Even historically the proportion of trainees who will become equity partners is nowhere near 100%. In the current climate the lock-up of equity is only becoming tighter and the lead time from qualification to equity partnership longer. In addition a large proportion of lawyers will have two more jobs before reaching equity partnership or will move to a different firm to obtain equity so the chances of a significant proportion of a firm’s equity partners being drawn from its trainees is fairly slim. On that basis taking on trainees on the basis of their financial status would be of little use.

    Secondly law firm finance doesn’t tend to be structured in the way you suggest anyway. There is no reason why capital contributions can’t be made from cash resources, but equally they are frequently funded by bank borrowings secured either by security on the partner’s assets, partnership property or guarantees.

    The other two factors you referred to (commitment to legal practice and intelligence) far outweigh any financial considerations and to be honest I think you would be hard pressed to find a firm that selects trainees on the basis of their financial standing (and would be ill-advised to pursue a career with such a firm!).

    There are obviously issues about affordability of LPC fees (if not being funded by your future employer) and availability of loans to finance them and these can be a major barrier to entry to the profession. However, provided you focus on the first two factors you identified I don’t believe you will find that firms have any axe to grind about how you manage to fund your LPC.

    The decision for those without funding from a firm and/or independent resources is whether the cost of the LPC on top of university / conversion course debts is a worthwhile investment in view of the likely future returns. That is a decision that only the individual can make, but this price hike will not make it any easier!

  5. Dear Beej777,

    I appreciate the response, clarifying some of the points which I expressed in my earlier post.

    I would hope that you would allow me the time to provide a rebuttal, or at least, comment upon your response with due diligence.

    You referred to a comment which, in principle, suggested that ‘trainees’ were to remain a single place. I was, in fact, attempting to explain that those who complete the LPC would show financial awareness in the ability to fund such an expensive course.

    Your statistics regarding those whom achieve equity partnership have little bearing upon the point. I did not suggest that all those whom complete the Legal Practice Course would become equity partners. I have accepted this as a fact.

    I referred to the investment as a future prospective position because I have no doubts regarding people moving from firm to firm.

    It is merely an ideal position that ‘trainees’ would like to be in.

    ‘Secondly law firm finance doesn’t tend to be structured in the way you suggest anyway. There is no reason why capital contributions can’t be made from cash resources, but equally they are frequently funded by bank borrowings secured either by security on the partner’s assets, partnership property or guarantees.’

    As I refer to this comment, I see that there are numerous different references to partners or partnership property. Essentially, therefore, the law firms require equity partnerships to be able to fund their endeavours.

    There is not an endless stream of equity partners in the current economic climate nor do I believe there ever will be. The Legal Practice Course gives some indication as to those who will be able to become equity partners, not guarantee it.

    Law firms work upon the principle of a partnership and equity partners, at least, successful firms do. Without the investment from partners, law firms cannot expand and further their business interests.

    What I see as the problem is the fact that the costs have risen and thus seem to wish to return to some archaic legal position in which the elite enter.

    This is the reason for the focus upon the financial elements of the post itself, not simply because that is the essence of the article.

    I must admit, however, that I cannot speak with complete confidence as I have a general knowledge regarding law firms. If I make a mistake, I apologise and appreciate the clarification.

    Kind regards,
    Ian Caithness

  6. Sir-

    The posts on this subject have thus far been quite interesting.

    From a different perspective, I am from the U.S. and a product of an undergraduate law degree from an excellent UK university and later in life a postgraduate law degree from a rated US law school. I was able to sit for the New York bar exam after completion of my undergraduate degree and worked for a larger law firm in NYC.

    For me, the cost associated with attending law school in the UK was clearly a bargain relatively speaking, had I attended law school in the U.S. for my first professional degree.

    Understanding that many who do graduate from law school wish to stay home and practice in the UK, the LPC or BVC are the mandatory stepping stones to realising that goal and clearly the providers of those courses recognize this, and, in my opinion, treat these courses as a commodity. That is, as appears to be the situation we are now experiencing, more demand equates to higher value for the available seats for these courses. Is this fair or equitable? Of course not, but these are businesses. No matter how high the costs of these courses rise, there will always be the parents/benefactors of idiot sons and daughters who will pay to get them through and onto the trainee stage.

    As with all academia, you fear for those who are intelligent enough, but do not necessarily have the means to pay for the courses without scholarships or other private funding and may miss out on such an opportunity.

    Possible solution? Create more competition with the BVC and LPC providers. For example, universities could add an additional year onto law school with that final year focused on the practical aspects of being a solicitor or barrister, rather than theory.

    Universities and the governing bodies should be more forthcoming with the sobering statistics of the thin possibilities of being hired by a top firm, chambers, public or private company.

    P.S. – very much enjoy your posts on Twitter
    Regards,

    SLD

  7. Having just come this morning from tutoring a GDL student who is going on to do her LPC at one of the above-named institutions, I am concerned at such a marked price hike in fees. For my student, in real terms this is an increase of £910 from the fees advertised last year, and in the current climate is no small increase to have to pay upfront- whether legal education is viewed as a long term investment or not.

    I understand the increase of running costs, of retaining staff who add value to the brand of the school and perhaps the cost of expansion. What I cannot seem to fathom is any argument about the increase in price being relative to any increase in quality of teaching. I teach several postgraduate students, all roughly in the same intelligence bracket, all of whom are doing a GDL full time at various institutions. The only thing that links them all is that despite being bright, they are woefully under-supervised in their learning, despite initiatives such as ‘workshop preparation’ and e-tests, are absolutely saturated with the breadth of law they must master to make the course expenditure worthwhile. They report to me that the quality of teaching is inconsistent, with some lecturers being very good at teaching a subject, and others being less informative and outright dismissive and detached. Teaching style might be one answer to this puzzle. And stress due to a heavy workload may also be the basis for my student’s complaints.

    But the over-arching theme I can discern from them all is that these law schools are factories. There are too many students vying for any meaningful guidance or time from lecturers at the larger institutions. Teaching quality is very patchy (as I can attest as I end up having to reteach an area) and is, at times, inadequate.

    How then, is the investment worth the end product? Out of those who can truly afford it, (who are in the minority) there are those students who will do well and will always do well, those who improve, and those who should not really take the course if money is an issue for them. This goes back to Iain’s point which suggests that the firms are looking for potential partners. With respect, many firms do not look that far ahead and make their predictions from attendance at an LPC provider. If they are making their assessment based more on the financial circumstances of the applicant than their capability, then they would not bother to offer grants to take the LPC. Of the many firms I have spoken to and worked in, financial circumstances are a factor in deciding whether or not to support the trainee in making an LPC award and maintenance grant. Not all firms are playing partner roulette that early on. True, firms such as A&O invest about £200k in a trainee by the end of their two years training. In their case, I too would want a return on my investment. But a lawyer can generate enough fees to offset any investment- meaning that the point of law school is not necessarily weighted towards financial means.

    If that is so, then what can be the justification for yet another increase in fees? Where is the extra benefit? I have watched the fees increase for the last 6 or so years and the fees for the LPC and BVC in London are not far from double in that time. Maybe by 2010 they will be. This has become industry standard practice and must stop. It has nothing to do with quality, and everything to do with profit.

    Law students are in a very weak bargaining position. The firms are not however…and I suspect they pay lower rates for the same education by sending a guaranteed quota.

    Charon I agree but I would go further. It is unconscionable. But while these finishing schools remain the only route to qualification, what other choice is there?

  8. By way of background, I have two first degrees and two post graduate degrees, as well as a major vocational qualification. I have two of the world’s top 10 universities on my CV and first hand experience of one of the law schools, albeit in the BVC and not LPC.

    With that much to compare with, I would rank my course provider as the very worst of educational establishments I have ever experienced. The fact that it has 5 stars, or whatever, remains a total mystery because I have yet to come across any of its students, past or present, who would give it any more than two. And that much requires them to be pissed, and in a good mood.

    Concentrating on the cost is, in my opinion, what the providers want, but it is misdirection. Taking a step back, vocational legal training is not that expensive compared to equivalent training in other fields. Over 15 years ago I (or strictly, my then employer) stumped up a whopping £20K for my one year at business school and the current cost is probably double that, if not more. In comparison, law school fees are a gift at face value, but are too often seen as high by people coming from a certain environment, i.e., university, where the fees are state subsidised. The same people are then too prone to the common mistake of equating a perceived premium cost with high worth to the recipient.

    The issue is not what you pay, but what you get in return. And, quite frankly, when it comes to my course provider, the answer is jack shit. Badly drawn materials, poor instructions, bussed-in tutors, no pastoral care and an all round piss poor delivery by a bunch of people who can be best described as failed lawyers. There are a few noteworthy exceptions and, indeed, the occasional seriously impressive member of staff, but that does not detract from the overal tone.

    Al told, I would put the value at not more than £5K, rather than £15K. That comfortably covers the cost of the third party books and subsciptions but includes very little for the in house materials and teaching input because, quite frankly, that is what it is worth. People bang on about facilities but a nice, shiny, glass fronted building has no real value, except to the shareholders who are benefitting from their mug students paying for the shareholders’ real esate investment.

    I do not feel that it is correct to blame the providers, who are only making the most for themselves out of a broken system (current BVC students around 3,000, expected pupillages this year, only 300, what are the BSB doing ?)

    If the current system (and I make the observation from a BVC rather than LPC angle, because I have no experience of the LPC) is to remain, then nothing will materially change until, and unless, the basis of the course providers’ remuneration is re-drawn, and allied with the purpose for which they purport to provide their services.

    Put starkly, what would happen if the providers can name their price but get absolutely nothing unless the student can secure a pupillage (or, indeed, a training contract) ?

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  10. I hope some of the LPC providers we have discussed read this post and the comments, which all go one way. Definitely not in favour of the providers.

    Law firm economics as one commentator suggests are changing and this is very true. The numbers of equity partners relative to partners as whole (ie. including “salaried partners”) are declining. The equity holders are shrinking in order to boost their profits. This suggests that the “tournament” model of promotion to partner is failing. It predicated that associates would compete for partnership and that the firm would continue to grow in this way. The basis is that associates defer gratification and don’t defect from the firm in order to share in future rewards allocated to partners.

    At this stage we see that it’s falling apart. There is less and less to attract those associates to stay. The rewards aren’t there. Moreover, another premise was that associates would be trained in order to assume their partners’ social and economic capital. Now fewer associates are being trained because partners are being compelled to work harder and have less time.

    If one adds to this a re-appraisal of what profession, career, and occupation mean, then with the advent of groups such as Generation Y (and I mean this seriously not as a cop out) careers take on the profile of portfolios rather than one longterm trajectory. Careers will be lived in 3 to 4 year chunks, moving from occupation to occupation and so on.

    The kind of stability that law firms should need in associate supply will dissipate.

    Ultimately as “alternative business structures” take over as envisaged in the Legal Services Act, partnership will begin to fade when external investors start to impose corporate rational procedures to “improve” decisionmaking. Partnership is hugely inefficient in this way.

    Conversely, it could be a time for tremendous innovation in legal practice and those who are legal entrepreneurs could do very well.

    This, unfortunately, was a long winded way to say that LPC providers better start examining markets not just in law but in other professions too, or they will wither.

    PS. Ian, I liked your comments and wish you well in your future career. Please feel free to contact me anytime if you’d like to discuss things.

  11. Having been unable to access the internet over the last two days, I thought it appropriate to explain the true meaning regarding the comments I made.

    When I suggested that the Legal Practice Course was a suggested sign of the financial stability of the student and thus a potential candidate for equity partnership or partnership in itself, I do not mean to suggest that this is how law firms determine their partners.

    I saw much more as a comment that suggested that the cost of the Legal Practice Course was such that only those with an intention to ‘financially commit’ to the legal profession would consider paying for such costs, even with the grants and scholarships that are increasingly becoming available.

    For example, students are expect to fall into a debt that equate to approximately £24,000 post-University. If the average cost of the Legal Practice Course is £10,000 and a £5,000 grant is available, students must finance themselves.

    Certainly, those whom have doubts regarding the legal profession would be dismayed to learn of the true cost of the education. For that reason alone, one might accept that those with academic ability and talent (who are ‘on the fence’) may move elsewhere.

    Although the legal profession is substantially one of the most fulfilling professions regarding earnings and income, it takes time to earn money which substantially balances the costs prior to that position.

    From the perspective of the student, one has to accept that the concern is both with the cost and the quality. If there is a variable difference in the quality of teaching and standard in education (which there appears to be!), what good is a student paying £10,000, only to be left with little knowledge at the end?

    It is certainly a problem with this and people have to ask the question; how can we make a difference? If the collective view is such that people strongly oppose this increase, we must accept that action must be taken.

    The only problem is whether the action will make any difference.

    Kind regards,
    Ian Caithness

    P.S. John, many thanks for your kind words. I shall certainly take you up on the offer if the need ever arise! Very good posts.

  12. Law students lack any real bargaining power and it is easy for the law schools to raise fees. The solution is for more schools to be allowed to provide LPC/BVC courses – there is certainly enough demand. For example, if, like me, you study the GDL course at Sussex University in Brighton, there is nowhere closer than London where you can study the LPC. To the price of fees is added the cost of commuting to/living in London.

    The true cost of these price rises will be a shrinking of the legal profession into its public-school educated core. There is simply no way in which someone coming from an average background could fund their studies without either getting a bank loan or assistance from their parents – and, as was noted above, most students nowadays are self funding.

    All going well, if I cannot get a training contract, I will complete the GDL this summer, and then go back to my old job working in patenting in China to save up the money necessary to pay for the LPC. I will not put myself into further debt by getting a bank loan, nor do I have any desire to be a drag on my family’s finances.

  13. Thank you all for your thoughtful and insightful comments – it is an important issue for the future of the profession. Access to the profession is partly at stake here… we do not as FOARP states want the profession to return to a middle class public school educated core.

    Diversity is important for a modern profession. This is recognised by the Bar Council and by The Law Society – yet the law schools continue to push the cost beyond the reach of many without their incurring massive debt.

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  15. Charon,

    Although it won’t be much comfoprt to any struggling students, this is just market forces at work. So far, the demand for places hasn’t fallen and the providers can whack up their fees.

    How long this situation lasts is unclear, but the number of would be wig-wearers will tail off at some point, and fees will soften.

    There does appear to be a structural problem, though, which is that no-hopers are not screened out.

    James C

  16. I have been impressed by the level of insight and quality of the comments made here, but as with much debate surrounding the LPC, training contracts and subsequent progression in the profession (solicitors, that is) the emphasis always appears to be upon the private for profit LPC providers and the larger corporate firms. Having spent 30 years in high street practice before leaving to teach full time at a not for profit LPC provider I often find much of the debate is about environments which are alien to me.

    Can we have some thoughts from students, trainees and newly-qualifieds who are going to or coming from the environments I know ?

    I hope I’m not the only LPC teacher following this blog.

  17. Howard

    Good point. I’m doing a podcast with Prof John Flood tomorrow – and we will discuss the wider issues.

    I’m also doing a podcast with the team at Nottingham Law School next week and hope to do one with Julie Brannan at OXILP as well

    Would you be interested in doing a podcast with me on the LPC generally and your experience of practice in so far as it helps with your LPC teaching?

  18. Dear Howard,

    As much of the comments, as you suggested, have been related to the corporations such as the BPP Law School, College of Law, Kaplin, etc. I would assume that this is because there is so little reference to these NFP (Not-For-Profit) organisations.

    As a law student, I would be interested to learn of these organisations as I understand that the University of Lincoln (one which I will be attending in ’09) is yet to provide a source for the Legal Practice Course (although discussions are in progress to allow the College of Law to provide it).

    Could you give me some background information on these organisations, possibly provide a few web-links or contact details?

    Yours sincerely,
    Ian Caithness

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  20. I would just like to thank you for all the comments provided on this forum. I am an Irish law student and I have been giving the UK qualification route some serious thought due to the perceived flexibility of such. However, all the comments listed above have taken some of the sheen off and for this I thank you.

    If you would like an interesting comparrasion I would suggest to take a look at the qualification route for solicitors in the Irish legal market where there is, strictly speaking, no GDL, any degree will do, a law degree counts for nothing and one must take a set of exams known as the FE1’s (basically these are a money making racket for our self-regulating Law Society, and are run in an illogical manner). If one does not have a degree then three more exams prior to the FE1’s will suffice. In Ireland there is no need to have our equivilent of the A levels, the Leaving Certificate, to become a solicitor. Then one must secure a training contract which will last two and a half years overall. The training process consists of a hybrid of on-the-job training and two seperate ‘academic’ stages in the Law Society. The fees herein come to approximately €15,000.00 in total. Larger law firms offer payment whilst studying at the Law Society but many trainees, especially those in smaller firms, are not afforded this and must also fund the training fees themselves. One must also bear in mind that Ireland is a very small place and everyone in the legal profession tends to know each other no matter where in the country they are based. A lot can depend on your parent’s background, which private secondary school you went to. I can say with certainty through my legal experience that academic ability is no gurantee to success. Overall there is a distinct whiff of the gentleman’s club about the system.

    On the other hand in Ireland we also have what are known as ‘crash courses’ wherein it is deemed that a set of notes coupled with fourteen weeks of lectures is sufficient knowledge to sit the FE1’s and have the requisite knowledge to become a solicitor. These are run by private colleges who, from what I can gather, are modelled on the private LPC providers. After five years of studying and five years experience in law I wonder how one can gain the necessary knowledge and research skills required. I am a firm believer that law is a skill that requires practive and perseverance.

    The Bar in Ireland is even more restrictive and collegiate. Recently our training facility, the King’s Inns, changed their Barrister-at-Law degree from a two year part-time course into a one year full-time course with fees of about €15,000.00. There are no pupilages available. Furthermore, after training one must devil for free for two years and then may enter practice in their own name. To secure a devilling role it appears that one must have some sort of family connection to a high ranking barrister. Recently, the Kings Inns introduced a revamped part-time Barrister-at-Law degree to give the appearance of accessibility but as I see it this will not have the desired effect particularly in the current climate.

    The issue of diversity has yet to rear its head in the Irish legal profession and it will be a long time before it does. The best lecturer that I had in my first year of college was from a working class background in Dublin. He told me that the reason that he did not go on to qualify was that his background would make it very difficult for him. This came as no surprise to me. I am currently experiencing the same thing and am wondering if qualification is for me. I am currently having a problem funding my course and do not know if I will be able to complete it. Lecturing and teaching, if I can complete my degree, is looking ever more attractive.

    I hope that the above comments will provide a interesting angle from which to compare the UK qualification system. Even though as I previously said some of the sheen has been taken off the UK manner of qualification it is still an option to consider especially considering the flexibility and part-time options for the LPC.

    I would also like to say that I do enjoy the blog. Keep the posts coming.

    Many thanks.

  21. Irish Law Student’s post is interesting because part of the anti-competition moves against restrictive practices in the professions as a whole began in in Ireland. Their head of anti-competition became the head of our Office of Fair Trading. And whereas the OFT’s moves have led to the the Legal Services Act here, it’s failed in Ireland. That suggests the professions (legal profession) is very strong and very well-connected to be able to resist the moves. I wonder what effect the recession will have on this?

  22. Four of the cabinet ministers in Ireland are lawyers and our former Minister for Justice, 2002-2007 and Attorney General, has returned to his lucrative Bar career after losing his seat in the last election. Even in light of the solicitor’s undertaking scandals which saw three solicitors struck off and began the process of exposing our lax banking system which has directly led to our current woes there have been no proposals for reform. In Ireland, the builders, the government and the legal and accounting professions were in bed with each other rolling around in money for the last ten years not making the necessary reforms. Given the current circumstances I doubt that reform shall happen even in the not too near future.

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