Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Aspiring lawyers disappointed

LAG was disappointed to learn this afternoon that the Legal Services Commission (LSC) has decided not to go ahead with plans to sponsor training contracts for young legal aid lawyers. We believe this is a real kick in the teeth for many newly qualified or aspiring lawyers who want to pursue a career in legal aid work. The decision on the training grants had been delayed for over a year.

Over the years, the LSC has sponsored the training of 750 lawyers in legal aid firms and some Law Centres. The scheme gave them a chance of getting a foot on the career ladder and more importantly ensured the legal aid system recruited talented lawyers at the start of their careers, rather than letting them go off to pursue more lucrative careers in commercial law.

Laura Janes, chairperson of Young Legal Aid Lawyers, told LAG, 'This was promised by the last government. The minister even showed me the paperwork and said it was going to go ahead. It will be a bitter disappointment to many law students and newly qualified lawyers, as this was their last hope of a career in legal aid work.'

LAG appreciates times are hard in the world of legal aid. Cuts are looming. But surely £2 million could have been found out of the total budget of over £2 billion for the scheme? The sponsorship of training contracts by the LSC was widely supported by practitioners and was seen as one of the most positive things it did. A good quality legal aid system is dependent on recruiting and retaining the most able lawyers. LAG fears that firms will increasingly be reluctant to pay the wages of trainee lawyers and instead opt for unqualified staff to carry out legal aid work.

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