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.