Law schools feel squeeze

September 22, 1995

University law school heads have condemned proposals for tight restrictions on postgraduate courses for trainee solicitors.

A call from Martin Mears, the new president of the Law Society, for a cut in places on the Legal Practice Course - the first stage of vocational training for solicitors - was described as "impractical and divisive" by key members of the Society of Public Teachers of Law.

The SPTL, which met for its annual conference in Cardiff last week, fears that Mr Mears's comments may add to recruiting problems already being faced by some institutions offering the LPC.

John Wylie, SPTL president and head of Cardiff Law School, said there were signs that applications for LPC places were dropping after years of oversupply, as graduates responded to greater competition for training places and rising student debt.

The "painful" consequences of about 7,000 graduates on LPC courses chasing about 4,000 training places in solicitors' firms have prompted the Law Society to set up a working group to consider stricter controls on LPC admissions.

It is expected to report on its conclusions by mid-December.

But Mr Wylie said such a move would only add to the squeeze university law schools are facing through the research assessment exercise and problems with recruiting overseas students.

"We have to think about what kind of an impact that is likely to have on people who are thinking about studying law. We should be getting the message across that a law course is not just preparation for becoming a solicitor or a barrister, but could also lead to a career in business and management. We have always argued that but our bluff will have been called if we cannot show it is true," he said.

Peter Birks, SPTL secretary, said it would be impractical to achieve the kind of change Mr Mears had in mind in a reasonable time period.

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