A dramatic drop in the demand for postgraduate law courses has been revealed by the Law Society.
The number of non-law graduates applying to join conversion courses to train as lawyers has almost halved over three years.
In 1993, there were just over 4,000 applications to join one-year Common Professional Examination programmes, while there have been just 2,189 applications for places on courses beginning in September this year.
A 10 per cent fall in demand for CPE places compared with last year, from 2,434 to 2,189, follows a drop of around 25 per cent last year.
The lower level of interest among graduates in law courses was also reflected in a 14 per cent fall in applications for full-time places on the Legal Practice Course, which provides vocational training for law graduates hoping to become solicitors. Applications were down to 7,931 this year compared to 9,240 last year.
Student hardship and more competition for professional training places have been blamed for the drop in demand. A CPE course can cost up to Pounds 4,500, and grants are often hard to come by.
Colin Beatty, the Law Society's senior policy executive, commented: "Students now realise that unless they have a very good degree they probably will not progress in the profession."
The news comes at a time when the Law Society is considering tougher entry rules for the LPC to help close the gap between the number of LPC holders and the lower number of training places in solicitors firms.
Martin Mears, Law Society president, has proposed a new entry test, following advice that his original plans to restrict numbers on LPC courses might be illegal.
But the figures released by the Law Society this week show that market forces may already be seeing to the training gap. While the number of applications to join the LPC has dropped, there is a small predicted increase in the number of training contracts for 1996.
Simon Baker, chairman of the Law Society's training committee, said: "The serious over-supply of applicants to the profession seems to be correcting itself without the need for direct intervention."