You too could get to wear a wig like this
The legal profession plans to change the way it recruits newcomers, so that a law career is no longer restricted to the well-connected, says Sharon Wallach
Wednesday 14 June 1995
Patronage in the legal profession has a long-established history. At one time, only the well-heeled and well-connected could afford to become lawyers. In theory, all that has changed, but echoes of the past remain.
The disparity between the numbers taking the vocational courses and the numbers of available pupillages and training places, coupled with the difficulties faced by students in funding their training, mean that the profession can pick and choose its recruits.
In general, these tend to be the people with the best academic qualifications. But it can also mean "jobs for the boys and girls" (recent allegations in the legal press refer to instances - albeit rare - of pupillages being offered to women for sex).
Barristers are permitted to take friends or relatives as private pupils. A fuss was made recently when Cherie Booth QC took on as a pupil Buster Cox, the son of Barry Cox who fundraised for the election of her husband Tony Blair to the leadership of the Labour Party. Ms Booth was criticised for apparently side-stepping her chambers' selection procedures, but the Bar's professional conduct committee found no evidence of misconduct.
The Bar is, however, in the midst of reviewing selection procedures within the barristers' profession, aiming to introduce a fairer system that emphasises merit rather than old school tie. It is reviewing the future of private pupillages in conjunction with proposals for a clearing house scheme for pupillage applications (Pach), along the lines of Ucas, the university application system.
"Private pupillages are not consistent with an open clearing house scheme," says a spokesman for the Bar. "In any event, there is not much evidence of private pupillages - they are relatively rare."
The real problem, he says, is not alleged patronage, but the chaos of the current application system.
Following wide consultations on the new scheme, the proposals are likely to get the go-ahead when they are put to the Bar Council, probably next month.
Pach will not be compulsory, the spokesman says, but adds: "The Bar Council will give a very strong steer. Those chambers that want the best and most progressive young barristers will be well advised to participate, because that is the system the most forward-thinking young barristers will favour."
Oxbridge has benefited from taking students from a wider range of social backgrounds, and so should the Bar.
The current regime at the Bar, under the chairmanship of Peter Goldsmith QC, is concerned to dispel its old closed-club image. It says the clearing house scheme will be designed to ensure truly open competition, as well as good equal opportunities practice.
"The move is very definitely away from what many consider to be the unacceptable practices of the past towards a more pragmatic and rational system, in which the best qualified are taken on by the best chambers for them," says the Bar's spokesman.
Any patronage that exists among solicitors is more to do with background than old boy clubs, and the relationship between who you are and your success in finding a niche in the profession is less clear-cut. The vocational training for solicitors, the legal practice course, is expensive and local authority giants are rarely forthcoming. Students must therefore either take on loans - and begin their careers saddled with huge debts - or rely on being funded by firms that will take them on as trainees. By and large, only the bigger firms can afford to do this, and these firms are choosy. Of the 30 largest firms, only four consider candidates with lower than a 2.1 degree, according to a survey in Lawyer magazine. In addition, the large firms take most, if not all, of their trainees from Oxbridge and the red-brick universities and this, many claim, discriminates against ethnic minorities and the non-middle class applicants.
The position in other countries is not dissimilar. In the United States, says one American lawyer, where "things are meant to be much more of a meritocracy" and there are anti-nepotism rules in most big firms, it matters who you know. In the US equivalent of a City firm, an introduction from an important client is a "virtual guarantee of a job".
In government jobs - the government is the largest employer of lawyers in the US - there is political patronage. "If the attorney-general is a Democrat, Republican candidates need not apply," the lawyer says, although among members of the same party, meritocracy otherwise reigns. In smaller and provincial US firms, "fathers employ their sons, and mothers their daughters", and lawyers working for companies tend to come from firms who are outside suppliers of legal services.
In Germany, what count are grades, says a spokesman from the German Bar. "Ten years ago, prospects for lawyers were bad," she says. "Then, after reunification, there was a very great need for lawyers - there were only 600 lawyers in the DDR - and it was easy to find jobs. Now, it's changed again and we don't want people to take up law unless they have a real vocation."
Unemployment among lawyers in Germany is impossible to quantify as any qualified person may register as a lawyer, set up office at home and look for clients. But there is no patronage, says the spokeswoman. "It is more and more important to specialise and to learn to speak a couple of languages fluently. But it is academic grades that count."
In France, there is a strong tradition of children following their parents into the law. But, says a French lawyer, "everyone has his chance here. The most important thing is to be a good lawyer." Connections are irrelevant, he says, except possibly in helping students to find their first stage or traineeship, and this is ultimately no benefit as there is an over- supply of stagiares.
Spain also has a tradition of family connections but, says a spokeswoman for the Spanish Bar, competition in the legal profession is tough. "It is necessary to be a really good professional to find good work," she says. There is quite high unemployment among lawyers, who are claimed to number 100,000.
What it takes to become a lawyer
One of the few countries (besides the US) that allows lawyers entry to the profession with degrees other than law. Solicitor and barrister non- law graduates first take a common professional exam (CPE). All potential solicitors then go on to the one-year legal practice course and a two- year traineeship. Barristers undergo a one-year vocational training, then a two-year pupillage.
No law courses exist at undergraduate university, so after a non-law degree, students attend post-graduate law school for three years, emerging with a juris doctor (formerly LLB). Then follows a six-month cram course for Bar exams and (virtually routine) vetting by the committee on character and fitness. No period of traineeship.
Very long training - seven to nine years. An average of four or five years studying law at university (a free-ranging course of study based on humanistic ideals). A system of credits creates "a very free system" for students. The first state exam is followed by the equivalent of articles, but the student is attached to a court and paid a salary of DM1,700-1,800 and other Civil Service benefits. The student takes different stages with a judge, prosecutor, administrator, defence lawyer, etc. After at least two years, another exam and then qualification.
Four-year law degree becoming maitrise de droit. Then a professional exam from one of 180 regional bars, after a year of practical and theoretical work. This provides the caps or certificate of aptitude and entitlement to call yourself avocat. There is a state of usually two years, roughly equivalent to articles, after which the lawyer is registered in the grand tableau.
Currently, only lawyers who want to work in legal aid have to undergo a three-year training and attend a professional training school. Otherwise, anyone with a law degree may practise as a lawyer, although proposals to unify qualifications throughout the profession are likely to be approved by the Spanish Bar in the summer.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
How couples can protect their financial interests when cohabiting
Child Maintenance Service to replace Child Support Agency - but is it better?
A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university
Bargain Hunter: Kit yourself out in sports gear - at a healthy discount of up to 75%
The 10 Best money-saving sites
- 1 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 2 Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
- 5 Terror threat level raised to severe as PM warns Isis risk could last for decades
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...
£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...
£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...
£200 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: KYC Analyst, Key Banking Client, Bi...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony