There is a certain irony that the Bar Standard Board could be forced to abandon plans to introduce a compulsory aptitude test designed to reduce the number of people taking the Bar Vocational Course after The Office of Fair Trading ‘dubbed it’ anti-competitive earlier this week. (The Lawyer)
Far be it from me, a blogger who spends a lot of his time with his wine supplier, to suggest that the OFT may actually have got this wrong. But… I think the Bar Standards Board have got it right by introducing an aptitude test to give students a realistic idea in advance of spending a great deal of money as to whether they have a realistic prospect of making a decent career at the Bar. There are far too many people chasing too few tenancies. This is unlikely to improve in the current climate and may well not improve at all given that we are unlikely to return to the heady days of the past fifteen or so years bull run. While law schools will solemnly give students warnings about the difficulties they face, it is a bit like asking turkeys what their plans for the Christmas holidays are to leave entry to a Bar exam course to the law schools. I would make the same point about LPC providers. 7000 LPC students taking less than 6000 training contracts is not an ideal situation for students in the bottom 1000.
By the same token – full marks to The Law Society for taking a pragmatic approach to the current difficulties by launching a campaign warning students to think twice about embarking on a career in law (The Lawyer).
That said – the law has always been a competitive profession and if a student believes that he or she possesses the qualities (the aptitude test will assist here) and knowing the risks, they are prepared to take the risk – the profession will benefit from that attitude and we should be wary of warning students off. The public and private interest is best served by maintaining standards of excellence – and we do not want to see diversity or risk issues bring in a culture where no-one loses and there are no prizes. Equality of opportunity to compete for the best education to allow competition for the best opportunities should be our goal – not some artifical construct where people are weeded out to cap numbers and control real markets.
Frankly – an idea few will like, is to make the examinations for law a lot more difficult. That would weed out those who have little prospect of a career in law and raise standards in universities… Oh… and get rid of this ludicrous idea where everyone should get an Upper Second or a First. Degree inflation is a farce….. I’ll get my coat.