The Law Society has announced plans to guarantee training contracts for exceptional law students as part of an attempt to offer those from minority backgrounds access to legal training.
The Society already offers standard funding awards to ten students in the UK every year under its Diversity Access Scheme (DAS), but now it will also offer guaranteed training contacts to two exceptional students.
The standard offer includes financial assistance with Legal Practice Course fees, the chance to undertake work experience and support from a professional mentor. These new ‘guaranteed’ contracts give exceptional students the added benefit of a guaranteed training place at an eligible Law Centre.
Next year the Society will also be offering one student a placement with the Law Society’s in-house legal team at Chancery Lane.
The move to offer training places at Law Centre’s follows government cuts to the funding of such centres, as well as reflecting the wishes of DAS graduates.
With many DAS alumni indicating a preference to work in the social advice sector (and become, for example, family law solicitors in Exeter or Plymouth) rather than other sectors, such as criminal law, the move will afford them an early opportunity to specialise in their chosen field. The move should also go a small way towards combating the reduced staffing budgets, including the recruitment of trainees, for such centres, which have seen no reduction in demand for their services despite the cuts.
The president of The Law Society Andrew Caplen said: “Guaranteeing these training contracts at Law Centres will protect access to justice, and the scheme will also go some of the way towards improving the diversity of the legal profession.
“The scheme also means we can look forward to having an exceptional young mind joining us here at the Law Society.”
He also said the move aimed to tackle a shortage of training contracts. “The legal profession can be hard to break into,” he said. “It can be even harder for the people who qualify for our DAS because of the social and economic barriers they face.
“While that is a depressing reality it is one we cannot ignore and we have to say to anyone, that if they are talented and show promise of being a future member of the legal profession, we want to help you.”