Thankfully, I do not have the worry (any more) of having to qualify as a solicitor or considering a career at the Bar. That is not to say that I had the benefit of a fully expensed legal education: I had my University fees paid for by the State, but I still worked part-time during term time and full-time during my summer break to make ends meet. As to the LPC, there were definitely two classes of students: those that were self-funding and those that had the benefit of a fully expensed place and a bursary. I don’t recall the exact figure now but I probably came out of the process with about £5,000 worth of debt.
Was I super hungry at the end? You bet. Not only did I want to get the debt paid off pronto, but I also wanted to progress my career as quickly as I could because I was having to take a few steps backwards (financially) from my previous role and I therefore had some catching up to do.
Come the end, I sure as hell valued my education. I wasn’t precious about it in the sense that I was better than anyone else but rather I recognised that it gave me a degree of (implied) status – whether I liked it or not.
Let’s face it law connotes money, connotes status, connotes a slight Ivory Tower and a slightly aloof approach (I hope to god though I wasn’t like that).
Rightly, there has been a great deal of consternation by students who fear that they will be priced out of the legal market and that law will become the sole preserve of the rich and those that have the benefit of public education from a reputable school.
For my part it is probably too early to say what will be the outcome of the proposed changes but it must be right that with the increase in fees, the responsibility to repay those and the increased selection criteria that however able a student, there will be many people who are put off from pursuing a career in law (which means mostly a career in private practice).
This brings me to the point of the post: I wonder – no it is more than mild curiosity – whether those already in the profession, particularly some way in, actually value their education or enough for it to matter? I am not suggesting that they should pray at the altar of appreciation but it is right that they should recognise that they still occupy a privileged position in society. But more than that to recognise that as the market develops there is likely to be a lessening of the need for legal services to be provided and delivered by qualified solicitors. If the consensus is that less lawyers are needed then those that remain will have to iterate like mad and decide exactly what it is that they want to be and where in the market they see themselves operating.
Next time you feel frustrated with your job or the profession or your immediate boss, consider how much time, effort and financial commitment it took you to get where you are. Put yourself in the position of those students who are considering going through the system and how hungry and motivated they will be to get on. Don’t lose that same level of motivation just because of a few bad days of clients shouting or being driven on by the next bill etc.