Law Update: Society tries to solve trainees' problems

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At the last count, trainee solicitors outnumbered jobs by around three to one. In 1993, 9,000 people applied for 6,000 places on the legal practice course (LPC) - the compulsory vocational training course - with only 3,770 training contracts available.

The Law Society has this week announced that it is to take steps in an attempt to deal with the problem. Nicholas Saunders, head of the society's legal education division, says: 'We do have a responsibility that students coming on the LPC must know what the job position is. One of the difficulties, however, is that the number of jobs available depends on the demands of the market and other factors out of the Law Society's control.'

Among the immediate steps to be taken is the broadening of the types of legal work-experience that will count towards the two- year training contract period, with greater flexibility in recognising overseas and previous employment. Attempts will also be made to encourage commerce, industry and local government to take on trainees.

The rules dictate that trainees must have experience in three areas of law, but these are defined quite flexibly, Mr Saunders says. 'We will encourage employers to offer placements, in private practice, for example,or even with clients.' The society also hopes to encourage the pooling of training contracts between legal aid and commercial firms.

A clearing house scheme for LPC graduates without training contracts will also be considered, as will ways of demonstrating the 'marketability' of trainees' skills to employers outside the legal profession.

'It would be wrong for the society to bend over backwards to discourage people from becoming solicitors, because this would imply that there was something wrong with the profession,' Mr Saunders says.

'The problem is that it is difficult to make accurate predictions. In 1990, for instance, there was a huge demand for trainees which couldn't be satisfied. All we can really do is say 'These are the facts, these are the trends'.'