Please Subscribe?: Oversubscription of the Practice of Law

by WardBlawg on September 24, 2010

Please Subscribe?: Oversubscription of the Practice of Law

Tuesday marked the inception of the new Diploma in Legal Practice at University of Glasgow, separate from the Glasgow Graduate School of Law as it was 10 years ago, but now led b y former head of the Law Society of Scotland, Douglas Mill. And what better to mark the occasion than a series of exquisite speeches from some of Scotland’s best, including Sheriff Principal James Taylor, Lord Wallace and Lord Tyre.

Director of the Professional Legal Practice Team, Douglas Mill said that:

“The Diploma is a major step for the University of Glasgow and the School of Law, but only the first step in engaging with the legal profession in life-long learning in Law. I am delighted that so many students have the opportunity to undertake their Diploma and take the first step in their legal career at the University of Glasgow” [bit controversial there Douglas re first step? Surely the preceding four years of the LLB weren’t a waste of time?].

This is all excellent news both for Scotland and the legal profession. When WardblawG graduated, he had to be shipped out of his Hillhead habitat, off to the city centre each day through the wind-funnel that is Cathcart Street, to visit the hybrid Glasgow-Strathclyde Glasgow Graduate School of Law. A decent course, nonetheless, but the new Diploma housed solely within Glasgow University is sure to bring with it benefits, not least in terms of competition between it and the separate Strathclyde Diploma. WardblawG wishes the School all the very best for 2010/2011 and beyond.


And this is a very serious caveat, thinking on a higher level, should we really be actively encouraging further graduates to enter the legal profession? Or indeed should we be encouraging students at secondary school to undertake a law degree? It is submitted that, yes, it should be encouraged, passively at the minimum, but any connotations of a seemingly glamorous and lucrative career should be admonished from the very beginning. Indeed, plans are in place to ask prospective law students both in the US and UK to sign a document stating that they are interested in law.

The caveat should go something like this: You might make a lot of money, but you won’t, necessarily, become rich. In fact, the caveat should go further: You might not even make the money! Why? Because half of Diploma graduates will not be able to secure a traineeship in Scotland. WardblawG got about 95% in his Higher maths exam at Kyle Academy; but it takes nowhere near that ability to work out that the numbers are wrong. An infant could work it out. The logic is flawed and it badly needs a leader to sort out the ensuing mess. Obiter, the only type of suing should be coming from the summer placement students who aren’t being paid for their labour.

This discussion was reawakened by Neil Campbell, trainee solicitor at MacRoberts, who had the guts to suggest and publish in the Firm Magazine what was and is on the lips of every lawyer in Scotland: the legal profession is over-subscribed. Chaucer eviscerated evil in fiction, in his Canterbury Tales. Today, we eviscerate irrationality in fact, via any number of social media. It just requires one small step into the icy waters.

WardblawG has its own personally held views about the state of the legal market, not least because of the situation for NQs. On the one hand there is the argument of survival of the fittest and that competition is beneficial. On the other hand, there are some very real concerns to be voiced about personal and career development.

Please do voice your own thoughts in the comment box below.

Best wishes

Gavin Ward
For and on behalf of WardblawG Limited



Legal Blogger at WardBlawg
Law | Digital | Legal Technology | Innovation
  • A Simple Law Student

    Make it a post-graduate professional degree, as in the US. And make the candidates pay full fees for their LLB. That’ll soon cut down the numbers to the seriously committed.

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  • Gavin Ward

    @A Simple Law Student: The Diploma in Legal Practice in Scotland, like the LPC in England, is a post-graduate professional course, which may be different from the “degree” status you’re talking about. It lasts one year, but in any case it costs around £5,500.

    Many large law firms in Scotland used to start sponsoring their incoming trainees by paying for that course if the student didn’t receive funding, which around 180 students in Scotland are able to obtain based on the results of the “professional” degree examinations such as private law, property law or criminal law, which are usually first or second year courses. Now, most students have to fund the Diploma themselves which, as you say, should cut down the numbers to those more committed.

    Re the LLB itself, you raise an interesting point. In Scotland, if you haven’t completed a first degree, you have to pay full price for the accelerated LLB (2 years, of more than £10,000). However, if you are studying as your first degree, it is funded by SAAS, the Scottish body that funds higher education for most young people in Scotland, which makes studying law somewhat an easier choice, provided you get the five As at Higher or equivalent with Advanced Highers.

    I don’t think you can refuse students that payment or funding just because they are choosing law in lieu of another degree.

    Other options should be considered, such as introducing Law as a Higher subject to fifth year students, like they have in England. That gives students a flavour of studying law, even though at such an elementary level, it is bound to be black and white legal learning that anyone could copy and paste from sources on the Internet.

    Hopefully, some further points have been raised there that might merit more discussion…

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