Legal aid lawyers 'a dying breed'
Extensive research undertaken by the Law Society's Junior Lawyers Division has found that only four per cent of young lawyers are interested in working in legal aid.
The JLD Early Career Work Experience Survey, published 1 December, uncovered a number of serious challenges faced by people entering the legal profession, and by recruiting law firms.
Challenges the research uncovered include:
- Only four per cent of young lawyers are interested in legal aid work.
- A significant rise in the cost of young solicitors' education following tuition fee increases.
- Young lawyers are prioritising short-term earning potential over their long-term career goals in order to pay off debt.
- A low rate of new entrants successfully progressing to a training contract having taken on paralegal work as a stop-gap after study.
- A disparity between the development value of unpaid and paid work experience.
Law Society Junior Lawyers Division chair Sophia Dirir said:
'Our research shows the stark reality of the effects of university tuition fee hikes and legal aid cuts on the future of the legal profession and the justice system. The government's cuts will lead to people accused of crimes having no, or inadequate representation. This will ultimately deprive vulnerable members of the public of access to justice.
Junior lawyers are facing difficulties both financially and in accessing genuine career opportunities in the legal market place. There is evidence of a worrying trend of long-term unpaid work experience, some placements lasting up to two years. I would urge the profession to re-evaluate the situation and not put short-term commercial advantage above the development of future legal talent.'
Law Society president Andrew Caplen said:
'Legal aid cuts and wider funding cuts are chipping away at access to justice. That is why access to justice is at the top of my agenda this year. This latest research paints a grim picture of the future of legal aid, with fewer lawyers entering this essential area of law.
Students thinking of embarking on a career in law should think carefully and do extensive research. Competition for training contracts remains exceptionally high with some firms receiving thousands of applications for each place. To succeed as a solicitor, you need determination, motivation and academic ability in abundance. Students should be confident that they are right for the profession and the profession is right for them before making that commitment.
As the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales, the Law Society is here to support students at every stage of their training, qualifying and throughout their career as a solicitor. The Junior Lawyers Division offers a range of services for students and trainees and newly-qualified lawyers.'