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Students with views on how to increase access to the legal profession have a chance of winning a scholarship to study for a career in the law, thanks to a competition launched by The Independent and the College of Law.

The essay competition comes as both branches of the legal profession face enormous challenges and pressures:

increasing competition between the two branches of the profession, from clients and from other professions, and a tough global market;

the challenge and threats posed by the information superhighway;

public policy issues, such as the public funding of legal aid and advice; the decline in the influence of professional bodies and external regulatory forces; the cost of education and training.

At a time when the profession needs to attract entrants from as wide a background as possible to meet these challenges, significant barriers to access have developed. These include a decline in discretionary grants, spiralling costs of university education, and a threat to extend the length and therefore cost of the graduate conversion course. Therefore, the essay competition has been given the title "Breaking Down the Barriers". For example, how can we encourage and make it easier for the sort of people who can respond to the challenges of the profession in the 21st century to enter the law? What are the main barriers to entry? How can we make changes to the educational and professional infrastructure that will restore access?

Entries covering such issues are invited from law undergraduates and students on the Graduate Conversion Course (CPE) who will be commencing their vocational training as either solicitors or barristers at the College of Law in the autumn of 1997.

A panel of judges chaired by Nigel Savage, chief executive of the College of Law, will select the winning entry, which will be published in The Independent. The author will be awarded the College of Law Scholarship, which will cover the cost of fees either on the Legal Practice Course at one of the college's branches in London, Guildford, Chester or York or on the College Bar Vocational Course at its Bar School, central London.

Details: College of Law Action on Access Campaign Essay Competition, Brabouef Manor, St Catherine's, Guildford GU3 IHA.Tel: 01483 460200; Fax: 01483 460305; E mail sas@lawcol.org.uk.