Law Society Council Orders New Study of Barriers to Profession

LSS logoFollowing last month’s presentation to the Council of the Law Society of Scotland of the joint paper on Fair Access to the Legal Profession, the Council have launched a new study into the barriers facing aspiring solicitors. This follows consideration of the joint paper by the Society’s Education and Training Committee, whose responses were considered by the full Council at their meeting on Friday 26 April.

The full recommendations (from the joint paper) and responses approved by Council are detailed below:

CFALP/SYLA/TANQ Recommendation 1: 

To adopt a clear policy aim that the route to qualification should not be dependent on an individual’s ability to fund their professional education and training.

Law Society of Scotland Council Response:

That a principle along the following lines be adopted: “The Council of the Law Society of Scotland acknowledges the importance of fair access to the solicitor’s profession.  In acknowledging this principle, the Society will commit to embedding considerations of fair access to the profession in all long-term strategic planning and all relevant decision making.”

CFALP/SYLA/TANQ Recommendation 2: 

To establish a review with a remit to identify, investigate and evaluate options for reform of the route to qualification capable of delivering this policy whilst meeting the needs of the profession and legal employers; and to report back to Council with recommendations within a defined timescale.

Law Society of Scotland Council Response:

That a “stress test” review which incorporates a review of the financing of the DPLP should be carried out with specifics of the review being considered at the May Education and Training Committee meeting, reporting to the May Council meeting, to allow sufficient time to be devoted to the scoping of such an exercise.  It is hoped that any such project would be complete by November 2013.

CFALP/SYLA/TANQ Recommendation 3: 

To continue to lobby the Scottish Government to extend means-tested student maintenance loans to students studying the DPLP as the only short-term solution to the fair access issue.

Law Society of Scotland Council Response:

That the Society should continue to lobby government for improved funding for all DPLP students.

CFALP/SYLA/TANQ Recommendation 4:

That the Society should consider how and when it might be possible to monitor the socio-economic diversity of the profession and those aspiring to enter it.

Law Society of Scotland Council Response:

That the Head of Equality and Diversity and the Registrar’s team should consider if and how socio-economic data could be collected and which socio-economic data should be collected.

Commenting on the outcome, Law Society of Scotland President, Austin Lafferty said:

austin laffertyA successful legal profession must be a diverse legal profession, made up of all people from all backgrounds.  It is an issue which the Society takes seriously and the Campaign for Fair Access is to be congratulated for ensuring it remains firmly on our agenda.

The important task is to properly understand what barriers exist, where they lie and what impact they really have.  The members of our education and training committee, supported by our staff, will look closely and thoroughly at those issues and come back with a report that will allow us to decide on the most effective way forward.  I know they plan to work closely with the Campaign for Fair Access, the Scottish Young Lawyers Association, the Trainee and Newly Qualified Society and others in terms of gathering evidence

In response, Tim Haddow, CFALP Campaign coordinator said:

CFALP Logo

We are obviously pleased that the Law Society of Scotland has broadly accepted the  recommendations we, together with the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association and the Trainee and Newly Qualified Society, presented to Council last month. The Society’s restatement of its commitment to the principle of fair access to the legal profession is also welcome.

But, as we’ve consistently stated, the true test of the profession’s commitment to this principle will be the Society’s willingness to drive change in the route to qualification. CFALP’s position is that it is already clear that the current route to qualification is a significant barrier to fair access, an issue we’ve been highlighting now for over a year. To that extent, we are hoping that the review announced today, whose remit is to investigate barriers to the profession rather than start to formulate solutions, is only the first step and won’t delay progress towards reforms that – in our opinion – are so clearly needed.

Nonetheless, we look forward to continuing to make the case for reform with the Society over the coming months.

The Society’s press release announcing the study is here. The outcome of the meeting was also reported here in the Herald.

CFALP would welcome comment on the Law Society’s response via blog comment, our twitter feed (@CFALP1) or our Facebook page.

Law Society’s Report on Council Fair Access Discussions

The following text is taken from the Law Society’s own summary of the discussions at Council from their e-bulletin dated 3 April 2013.  A copy of the Society’s press release on the subject of fair access is also linked by the e-bulletin.  It should be noted that the Society’s report does not reflect that the proposals and paper were jointly submitted by the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association (SYLA) and the Trainee and Newly Qualified (TANQ) Society, rather than being a sole initiative of CFALP.

A copy of the paper is published here and CFALP would welcome comments via the blog, our twitter account @CFALP1 or on the discussion on the Law Society’s LinkedIn group.

Council Meeting, 22 March 2013

Fair access to the profession

The Society is to give more detailed consideration to proposals put forward by the Campaign for Fair Access to the Legal Profession (CFALP).

Tim Haddow, from CFALP, presented a paper to Council members. Society Vice President Bruce Beveridge paid tribute to the campaign group and for the “rich debate” that took place at the Council meeting.

The CFALP paper asked the Council to:

  • adopt a policy aim that the route to qualification as a solicitor should not depend on someone’s ability to fund their own education and training
  • establish a review to identify and evaluate options for reforming the route to qualification
  • lobby the Scottish Government to extend means-tested maintenance loans to Diploma students
  • instruct the Society to monitor and report on the socio-economic diversity of the profession

The paper said: “All with the ability, character and motivation to be lawyers should be able to compete equally and on merit to enter the profession.

“Personal or family economic circumstances should not be a factor working to exclude those from less privileged backgrounds.

“This is not just good business sense; a more diverse and representative profession will provide better access to justice and underpin a legal system that recognises and balances the needs and interests of all sectors of society.”

Tim Haddow argued that the cost of qualifying as a solicitor was presenting a barrier to entering the profession, particularly for those from less privileged backgrounds.

Council members praised CFALP for raising awareness of the issue of access to the profession.

Past President Cameron Ritchie commended the group’s paper and said it should now start a debate on the issue.

The meeting agreed that the Society’s Education and Training Committee will now consider the CFALP proposals in more detail and report back to the Council in April. The Society introduced a revised route to qualification as a solicitor in 2011 following a wide-ranging review and extensive consultation.