Archive for November 20th, 2010

I like the H M Bateman cartoons.  The fact that he attended the same public school I did, albeit at different times, is interesting to me – because I did not know that.  Mind you…so did Miles Kington and he spoke Franglais far better than I can, now, speak French… to my shame.

The reference to a public school (Glenalmond in Scotland) is not puffery… but is deliberate..because it appears that *DownTurn Abbey* is alive and well in the law according to an article in Legal Week last week…..

New study highlights extent of public school bias among legal profession

Legal Week reports: Lawyers are more than seven times as likely to have been privately educated than the general population, according to new research.

A survey of almost 50,000 City professionals, conducted by legal recruitment consultancy Laurence Simons, found that 15% of lawyers were educated at the UK’s 250 public schools, compared to just 2% of the general population.

The figures add further weight to claims that social exclusivity in the legal sector is a problem that needs to be addressed.

From those surveyed, 2,717 (5%) had been educated at either Eton, Westminster or Winchester, with 830 of those (30%) going on to become lawyers.

The findings come after a report last year looking at fair access to the professions included a submission from the Sutton Trust stating that between 1988 and 2004, the proportion of magic circle partners aged under 39 who had been privately educated increased from 59% to 71%.

Laurence Simons director Jason Horobin said: “The figures paint a disturbingly regressive picture of the opportunities open to those wishing to get into law. Social exclusivity is rife in the industry.”

All I can say… is that it will only get worse – University fees are going up, the law school fees for the LPC and BPTC are *pacy* and committees are being set up to write *Diversity* reports faster than footballers and other celebrities can get superinjunctions down at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Articles like this both annoy and worry me – partly because statistics may well bear out practice.  The irony is that so much work has been done by the profession to encourage potential lawyers from all social backgrounds to consider law in the last twenty years – only for vocational law school fees now to be set at  £15k for a one year course which could probably be taught by distance learning and some face to face tuition at a lesser cost (I did discuss this concept with Lord Goldsmith in The House of Lords some years ago – and he was kind enough to show me some unusual wall paper in one of the ‘State Rooms’ – The ideas were not followed up – possibly because he was rather busy giving advice to HM Government on Iraq et al), and now, government fee plans for all degrees are rising so that it is becoming more  difficult for those from less wealthy backgrounds to consider going into law (and other fields of life?)

From what I know of this issue we can’t simply can’t point the finger at the law firms – they can only recruit those available to recruit. Lord Neuberger’s diversity report, a fine document, may not become a practical reality through simple economics rather than bias to a particular class? Scholarships and bursaries can only go so far….. realpolitik may well make it impossible to achieve greater diversity, no matter how keen the profession is to achieve it.

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