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THINK HARD BEFORE YOU GO INTO LAW

<strong>SPEAKER&rsquo;S CORNER</strong><br />DES HUDSON<br /><strong>CHIEF EXECUTIVE, THE LAW SOCIETY</strong><br /><br />NOBODY who reads the legal press can fail to have noticed recently that the legal profession is feeling the pain of the recession. Solicitors are facing tough times and there are fewer places for newly-qualified solicitors than there have been for years.<br /><br />Becoming a solicitor is still a great career, but it is important to go into it with your eyes open. And that is why the Law Society recently launched an information campaign to caution people considering a career as a solicitor as to the risks, in terms of time, cost and ultimately the likelihood of building a successful career. This has been reported by some as the Law Society trying to dissuade people from becoming solicitors. That, however, is not the case. The campaign, steered by the Law Society Education and Training Committee, came about because we were becoming increasingly concerned about the growing disparity between the number of Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduates and the numbers of training contracts available annually.<br /><br />Last year alone, more than 1,000 people who completed the LPC did not get a training contract. Naturally the Society does not want to stop entry to the solicitor&rsquo;s profession by any worthy candidate on monetary grounds. This campaign is simply about the responsible management of expectations of entry to the profession in the face of a clear and growing disparity of numbers. Entry to the profession is quite rightly highly competitive, and yes, the cost of completing an LPC is high, and does not guarantee a job as a solicitor.<br /><br /><strong>REALISTIC APPRECIATION</strong><br />However, these warnings are not intended to dissuade budding solicitors from pursuing their goal of entering the profession. Rather, the intention of this campaign is about making an informed choice and that means stressing the importance of research, rigorous self-assessment, making the most of the opportunities that present themselves and &ndash; of course &ndash; to show yourself in the best possible light to recruiters.<br /><br />Awareness of the market and a realistic appreciation of the opportunities available is vital when would-be solicitors decide whether or not to embark on the path to qualification. City law firms are not the only option; high street and regional firms provide excellent opportunities for young lawyers. Solicitors work in the government, and in-house. Potential solicitors should think about the different areas of law they might like to work in, then sell themselves to recruiters.<br /><br />Beyond the information campaign, the Society has begun to explore practical ways to address this problem, including a recent meeting with major LPC providers. The Society cannot and does not want to control the market in legal studies by choking the supply at source. However, we are looking at a wide range of options for addressing the clear mismatch between numbers of LPC graduates and available training places and to help new lawyers meet the challenges of increased competition for those places. Any measures will need to be compatible with the objective of attracting the best talent from every part of society and not erecting unfair barriers to entry. The Law Society wants to inform, educate and support those considering a career as a solicitor. But most of all, to encourage them to think long and hard about the commitment it requires to succeed &ndash; particularly now.