Overemphasis on University

Preoccupation with university damages school leavers’ futures

18 August 2009 pr039.09

Intelligent young people with ambitions to become a lawyer face being denied a place at university this September, as law remains the most competitive subject to study. It is at this cross-roads that many of them will compromise by walking away from the law, due to the UK’s overemphasis on a university education, says the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX).

“What many ambitious school leavers won’t be told is that there this is an alternative affordable vocational route to become a lawyer which doesn’t require either ‘A’ levels or a university education. The blinkered over-emphasis on going to university which the UK still harbours isn’t helping our young people to properly evaluate their career options, particularly given the current economic climate. Out-moded mindsets mean that vocational routes to qualification are often overlooked, and this is a disservice” says Judith Gordon-Nichols, President of ILEX.

“Many promising would-be lawyers won’t even make it on to a university law course, which is a loss to the profession. Those that do will face the prospect of leaving university with crippling debts. Not every student seeking a career in law will be lucky enough to be supported by parents or have the independent means to fund their course, so the decision to go to university is becoming an increasingly hard one to make. We believe ILEX offers a vital route to a career in law which is open to all, regardless of socio-economic background, gender or ethnicity” she continued.

The ILEX route and the Legal Executive Lawyers it produces are gaining increasing recognition within the legal sector itself. Just recently The Lawyer magazine stated that the ILEX model ‘works excellently’, and emphasised its attractiveness over the other lawyer routes in the wake of a Law Society campaign to warn students off a law career and the publication of the government’s Milburn report, which criticised the legal profession for being a closed shop.

ILEX’s route to qualifying was established in 1963 and is currently the only way whereby those without degrees can become fully-fledged lawyers. Over 80,000 people have chosen the ILEX vocational route to pursue their law studies. One of the main advantages of the ILEX route is affordability. As well as average student debt of £20,000, aspiring solicitors or barristers face additional post-graduate study costs of £8,000 upwards. The full cost of qualifying as a Legal Executive Lawyer is only around £5500, or £1350 for those holding a law degree, and ILEX students are likely to earn as much as £60,000 over the period of the time it takes to complete a university law degree.

“There are many benefits to becoming a lawyer through ILEX, and the gaps between being a solicitor, barrister or legal executive lawyer are fast diminishing. Whilst we are delighted that our Legal Executive Lawyer members are now eligible for judicial appointment and to become partners in law firms, what is now needed is for the careers guidance service to fully recognise and embrace the benefits of the vocational routes to qualification so that our nation’s young people can maximize their inherent potential” Ms Gordon Nichols concludes.