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Archive for February 27th, 2009

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, barrister, ex government lawyer and author of the Head of Legal blog about Jack Straw’s use of the veto under s.53 Freedom of Information Act 2000

Listen to the report with Carl Gardner | Version for iTunes

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Greed is good?

Legal Week reports that three London law schools are raising their tuition fees

The Legal Week article states: Three of London’s law schools have considerably increased their Legal Practice Course (LPC), despite the widespread cost-cutting measures currently being implemented across the profession. BPP Law School has hiked annual fees for its London LPC students by more than 9% to £12,500, a move that means it remains the country’s most expensive law school. The college’s branches in Leeds and Manchester will see a more modest increase of 4.7%, from from £9,550 up to £9,995. Meanwhile, arch-rival The College of Law is set to introduce a fee increase of 8.8% as of September, meaning the LPC will set back a trainee lawyer £11,250, up from £10,340….”

I am particularly interested in your comments and views on this issue.  Let me put a number of points to reflect my own thoughts on this.

1.  Inflation is coming down and is set to be at the 2% mark fairly shortly.

2. Law firms are set to cut around 10%, possibly more, of their headcount – partners, associates and support staff – when the 2009 figures are compared with 2008.  This has been well reported in the press and need not be rehearsed further here.

3.  Britain and the rest of the world is facing possibly the worst recession since the 1930s.

4.  There is a general re-structuring of pricing in the profession, legal aid is being cut back severely and lawyers who practice in the fields of crime, family law and general common law, particularly,  are facing a severe reduction in fee income from public and privately funded work.

Against this background it is extraordinary, verging on unconscionable, that the leading law schools are hiking their fees so high. They cannot possibly be facing inflationary pressure from their teaching and support staff in these days when jobs are at a premium.  It is unlikely that they need significant bank funding, or any bank funding.  The accounts for  BPP Holdings PLC (owner of BPP law School) show strong growth.  Thompson Financial reported in August of last year: “BPP Holdings Plc. reported a 10 percent rise in pretax profits for the first half on brisk revenue growth across divisions and said momentum in the business remains strong and that it expects to report a good full-year result despite uncertain economic conditions.”

The College of Law is a registered charity and one assumes, not unreasonably given their success and market penetration that they too are showing growth in revenue and are well run and well funded.  Kaplan Law School is part of the very successful Kaplan group in the States.

It may be that these law schools, offering high quality courses, deserve their success and should not be penalised now just because the financial world has gone into meltdown because of the greed, venality and stupidity of the banking sector and a failure of governments to regulate. However, that being said, the fee rise proposed by these schools may well stick in the craw of the consumer… the students, let alone the City, Magic Circle and other large law firms who pay for their trainees to do the GDL and LPC.  I cannot for one moment imagine that law firm managing partners, who are currently shedding staff with the enthusiasm of a hungry rice farmer in a padi field, will embrace  these fee hikes with quite the same enthusiasm as the law school directors.

Giles Proctor at Kaplan has this to say: “I do not think we will see discounting, because students are increasingly demanding higher quality in their course provision. Students are customers, so should act like customers, and know exactly what they are getting in terms of higher quality offerings.”

Yes… students are customers and should be treated like customers – but they don’t have much bargaining power, they don’t have a great deal of choice of provision because even the traditional universities are in on the wonderful game of raising high revenues from law courses in these difficult days of government funding – so they have to pay the piper’s fees or go without.

LPC and BVC fees are soft targets for fee rises. For my part?… I think this round of fee hikes needs a bit more justification and explanation  than bland PR pushed out by these law schools. It may well be, of course, that there is a perfectly plausible and credible reason why these law schools have to increase their fees susbtantially above prevailing inflation each year and, of course, they too are welcome to comment on this post.

Over to you – I am definitely interested in what you have to say… in the comments section below…

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