A Fair Access Route to Qualification: First Steps Taken?

As those who have been following the CFALP campaign will know, our main focus has been on lobbying the Scottish Government to extend student maintenance loans to DPLP students.  We still think this is the only way to improve access to the legal profession in the short-term.  But at CFALP’s October event in the Scottish Parliament, we also challenged legal professionals as to whether they were committed to fair access and, if so, what steps they could take to reform the route to qualification to put fair access at its heart.

SYLA President Fiona McAllister with CFALP reps Heather Naismith and Tim Haddow at the Law Society officesFollowing that event, Austin Lafferty, President of the Law Society of Scotland, invited us to meet him and some members of his team.  Accompanied by Fiona McAllister (President of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association (SYLA)), Tim Haddow and Heather Naismith, members of the CFALP Steering Group, met with Mr Lafferty this afternoon. The Law Society Of Scotland was represented by Mr Lafferty, Richard Henderson (a member of the Society’s Education and Training Committee) and Liz Campbell (the Society’s Director of Education and Training).

At the meeting, CFALP discussed their campaign for fair access so far and the need for reform of the route to qualification if the problem is to be solved in the longer-term. Reform may also help address some of the other issues with the current route to qualification including the mis-match between DPLP graduates and available training contracts.  CFALP proposed that the Law Society should adopt, as a policy goal, a requirement that the route to qualification should enshrine fair access, providing a level playing field for all with the talent and ambition to become lawyers, regardless of personal (or family) financial background.

We were delighted that Mr Lafferty and his colleagues broadly welcomed this proposal. In particular, we were pleased to encounter no suggestion that the recent five-year review of the route to qualification should be seen as the last word in reform, or needed to be left to ‘bed in’ before any further changes could be contemplated.  The meeting agreed that CFALP and SYLA would cooperate in putting together a paper to go before the Law Society Council in the near future which would invite the Society to adopt a fair access policy along the lines proposed by CFALP.  If adopted, this would start a further process of review and reform, which would look to generate proposals that met the requirements of the profession and the needs of law firms whilst also ensuring there are no unfair financial barriers to entering the profession.

After the meeting, Tim Haddow, CFALP Campaign Coordinator and Steering Group Member, said:

This was a really positive meeting. I was encouraged that Mr Lafferty and the Law Society representatives were so supportive of our call for the need for fair access to be enshrined in the route to qualification. I look forward to working with SYLA, the Law Society and others to develop a proposal that can go before Council.

We recognise that, assuming a fair access policy is adopted, any review and subsequent reform of the route to qualification will not be quick or straightforward. It is not a simple problem to solve and the length of the previous review is testament to the difficulty of meeting all the requirements. It will also be important to ensure that all those involved with the education and training of prospective lawyers are fully supportive of any proposed solution or solutions. Nonetheless, we are delighted that the meeting understood the need for change and that we now have concrete proposals for starting a process that may see that change come about.



One Response to A Fair Access Route to Qualification: First Steps Taken?

  1. Ashley Gilfillan says:

    Excellent work Tim! Thanks from all at Edinburgh Napier.

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