Law candidates put their cases

June 14, 1996

Five solicitors campaigning to become president or vice president of the Law Society have set out their case for better education and training in the legal profession.

Candidates, announced late last week, are divided over proposals to raise entry requirements and restrict places on courses for would-be solicitors.

After a year of battling for reform, president Martin Mears is standing again on his original platform of balancing the number of new entrants with training places available in solicitors' firms.

Despite advice that restricting numbers could be illegal, a working party has been looking at ways of achieving an acceptable balance.

One option might be to raise entry requirements to the legal practice course, on the grounds that this would protect quality.

Such a move is advocated by Robert Sayer, the current vice-president standing for re-election.

Mr Sayer said: "We now have the bizarre situation where, after handing control over to outside course providers, too many students are coming through who have very little chance of completing or finding a job. We have to do something to ensure a high level of quality."

But this view is strongly contested by Anthony Bogan and Tony Girling, both running for president, and Phillip Sycamore, standing for vice president.

Mr Bogan said: "I do not think it is possible in today's climate to restrict access to anyone so long as they come up to standard."

Mr Girling said it was potentially discriminatory to restrict access, although entrants should be advised to be prepared to consider alternative uses for their legal qualifications.

Mr Sycamore said the Law Society had a duty to "manage expectations" of students, but it did not have the right to prevent them from trying for a legal career.

"It seems to me that numbers may be already beginning to fall on some courses anyway, so perhaps the message of how difficult it can be is getting through. My only worry is that some courses may not be able to continue as a result," he added.

Voting on candidates should be completed by July 11 and the results of the election announced on July 15.

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