Labour limit on lawyers proposed

July 7, 1995

A new Young Labour Lawyers group has called for greater regulation of the legal training market to stop law students falling into debt.

The group wants access to law courses limited to make it easier for students to find apprenticeship places after spending thousands of pounds training to become solicitors or barristers.

The plea came as universities and colleges urged the Bar Council to restrict the number of institutions allowed to run barrister training courses.

Around 30 institutions responding to the Bar's consultation on ending its school's monopoly on the Bar Vocational Course showed an interest in running the course, but most wanted the limit on the number of centres to be set at around five.

The Bar Council itself said it hoped to put a cap on the number of BVC centres and at least a temporary limit on the number of places per institution.

Bar officials want to avoid a repeat of the explosion in student numbers experienced when the Law Society opened up the market for the training of solicitors, with its new Legal Practice Course.

But the Young Labour Lawyers group says it believes institutions now running the LPC would strongly resist limiting of centres or places. It therefore wants a Labour government to intervene in legal training by imposing a restriction on student numbers.

In its response to Labour's Access to Justice paper, the group said that institutions should do more to warn students about the financial risks of pursuing a career in law rather than driving up numbers with little regard for the jobs market. It also wants better financial support for those students who do decide to take the risk.

Fiona Boyle, the group's press officer, said the Law Society was also likely to resist restriction of places on the grounds that it might damage equal opportunities.

"We are aware of that potential problem but we believe that on balance the existing problem of debt for students who cannot get training is probably more serious," she said.

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