Future lawyers find their way barred, says Scott Whyte
The annual Law Society of Scotland report on traineeships may appear to give reasons to be cheerful for the next generation of solicitors, but all is it not what it seems.
Figures show a 2 per cent increase on the previous year for the number of traineeships available to future lawyers, but this does not reflect the disproportion between people completing diplomas and the opportunities available to them. In January 2016 we ran an advert on the LawScotjobs website seeking applications for trainee solicitors and received 175 responses. Despite being adequately qualified with LLB and Diploma in Legal Practice, many applicants had been seeking a traineeship for years.
The financial crisis had a considerable impact on this industry and the legal landscape has changed, through firms merging, consolidating or disappearing. However, none of this appears to have been factored into the expansion of universities offering the LLB and PEAT 1 (formerly the Diploma in Legal Practice) over the same period.
Whilst we don’t want to see anyone denied the chance to pursue becoming a solicitor, the numbers do not stack up at the moment. Many graduates have the qualifications but will be unable to enter the profession because of the oversaturation of academic training. This is all the more concerning when the majority of PEAT 1 students have to fund the cost of the course themselves.
There are no easy answers to this problem, but unless it is tackled we will continue to see large numbers fail to secure their desired role as a trainee solicitor because there are not enough jobs to go around. The Law Society of Scotland, universities and firms employing trainees must adopt a coordinated approach to ensure the projected demand for trainee solicitors and the supply of eligible candidates is evenly matched. This will stop people who have spent a lot of time and money to complete their training then struggling to find a way into the profession.
• Scott Whyte is MD of Watermans Accident Claims and Care