Law Society Council debates Fair Access

Next month’s Council will decide whether to adopt an explicit ‘fair access’ policy and initiate a review of the route to qualification to deliver fair access.

LSS logoAt the invitation of the President of the Law Society of Scotland, a joint paper prepared by CFALP, the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association (SYLA) and the Trainee and Newly Qualified (TANQ) Society was submitted to the Law Society of Scotland Council at their meeting this afternoon (22 March).

The paper invited the Law Society to commit to, as an explicit policy goal, that access to the profession should not be dependent on an individual’s ability to pay for their own professional education and training.  The paper argues that the current route to qualification does not deliver this policy, and invites the Society to commit to a review of the route to qualification that will.

Tim Haddow, CFALP Campaign Coordinator, was invited to address Council and introduce the paper.  Liz Campbell, the Society’s Director of Education and Training then responded on behalf of the Education and Training Committee.  A wide-ranging debate then followed with several important contributions from Council members.

At the conclusion of the debate, Council agreed that the paper should be remitted to the Education and Training Committee for detailed consideration.  The Committee was instructed to report back to next month’s Council meeting with a recommendation as to the Council’s formal response to the decisions and actions that the paper invites  Council to adopt.  Council also asked the Committee to report back next month with proposals to for an initial scoping review along the lines suggested by CFALP/SYLA/TANQ that would report back to Council in 6 months’ time.

Speaking after the discussions, Tim Haddow said:

CFALP, SYLA and TANQ are grateful for the invitation to submit our paper and to prompt debate on what we see as a really important issue for aspiring lawyers, for the future of the profession and for society generally.

I was encouraged by the supportive response from Council and the clear recognition of the financial hurdles faced by those from less well-off backgrounds aspiring to become lawyers.  The vast majority of contributors accepted that there was a need for change and I’m pleased that the Education and Training Committee has been asked to look in more detail at what the Society’s response should be and that this will happen quickly.

As I said during the meeting, I appreciate that change will not be simple or straightforward, so I can understand the concerns of those who felt that it is too soon for further review or that change may be difficult to implement.  But if the profession resigns itself to the status quo there is no doubt in my mind that it will continue to exclude many of Scotland’s best and brightest young people, simply because they cannot afford to convert their law degrees into a legal career.

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