The newspaper provided a platform, on a fairly regular basis, for contributors making an argument for alternative approaches to the legal profession. For more than a decade, it has been argued that this is the way to achieve greater diversity in the law.
The Bar Qualification Exam (SQE) is designed to help with this. Just before Christmas, I noticed Conservative MP Pim Avulami who urged more apprenticeship opportunities in city companies, again with the goal of increasing talent diversity.
Readers will know the arguments, and they are correct. Intelligent people may not go to university because of caring responsibilities or cultural resistance by their families. That 17 happens 18 is young and some people develop later. Some schools are of lower quality than others. A little experience in the world outside of education – with law as a second profession – may not be a bad thing.
Then there is the debt. Acres of debt that aspiring lawyers accumulate on their journey to rehabilitation.
However, the advantages of the traditional path – via a high-ranking university – tend to be overstated. I did not want to interview two university professors at Cambridge before Christmas, both qualified as lawyers, to suppose. I wanted to hear the case they made.
I asked, at least, because with debt as a deterrent to traditional higher education, these colleges and law school need to make the case to maintain and improve their diversity.
What is their offer for a student with two or three stars at A-level who can secure an apprenticeship with a major company in the city directly from the school? He or she knows they want to be a lawyer, so it’s a good idea to have three years in Cambridge, so why pile into debt?
Gonville & Caius Professor Pippa Rogerson, a Newnham College graduate who qualified with Clifford Chance (then Coward Chance) before returning to academia, answers first.
“I think it would be a terrible shame for students not to think that an undergraduate law degree gives you more than just an apprenticeship,” she opens. “It’s not just the experience of being in university and being interdisciplinary.”
Rogerson makes an argument for the additional experiences available at the university, ‘whether the boat [club] or theater or pro bono group…with other people your same age – exploring.
It also makes the case for “actual academic study of law” as being “of value in and of itself… I’m not sure you could actually replicate that in a practical setting… you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do the whole thing out of tort law, or private international law.” the whole of it.”
The academic study of law in itself gives you a hinterland, a background, and an understanding that really allows you to develop principles…through the whole [the] Differences, comparisons, and analogies between crime, common law, contracts, and corporate law. ‘
“I don’t knock the trainees’ ways,” she adds. I had many friends who actually did really well and never went to college. But I think it was a privilege for me to be able to do this, and my concern is that people who can’t afford to do it or are worried about debt won’t be able to get that privilege.
Loretta Minghella, the newly installed Clare College professor who herself has moved from Claire to Kingsley Naples, makes the case based on her career and experiences.
The conceptual foundation and basic breath we can get at university has really helped me shift my mind from one type of discipline to another, and I find much of what I learned in Cambridge still stands in fact, a really “good niche,” she says.
As CEO of the Financial Services Compensation Program during the global financial crisis, she found herself “engaged in areas of law that are changing” and appreciates “having a sense of how that fits into overarching legal structures and systems, and having a sense of how other systems work, just having that broader context has been helpful.” Extremely “.
And then there’s the network and the contacts that you get: “I have all kinds of contacts from my college days that were really helpful, helpful contacts, people who might have gone into the government legal service, people who went to – the home, people who went to the private sector more Live… All of them have really helped me at different stages of my career in different ways and I hope to be able to help them.
She talks about, “Social basis, this conceptual basis and having a legal sense, both domestic and external, because you get that in Cambridge, I think it’s everything I don’t like to give up on myself.”
Does this stand as a show? There is an argument that we have trouble seeing beyond the “refinement” gained in such a setting – that blindness from other strengths leads to people promoting their own elite image. Certainly, I’ve met lawyers who have gone this route, and to be honest, they are a little restricted to their protected lives (comfortable family life, good school, Cambridge degree, City apprenticeship contract).
But I must say, the tone of the masters rings correctly. SQE does not remove the benefits of this education if you can get it.
Some benefits are not immediately apparent.
It’s been 30 years since I attended Clare College (albeit to study history), and while it has always been a useful “brand” on a resume, as a recent graduate I have found friends and colleagues who are useless in terms of career and career.
But for Minghella, in my forties, these people are doing interesting, touching, useful things. They are the QCs, the partners in capital, and the general counsel – chiefs, chiefs, directors of things and editors. They know things and manage things.
This does not mean that it is impossible to achieve the same benefits via alternative methods. But the challenge for those who run alternative paths into the legal profession is to find ways to add such advantages to the abstract qualification requirements.
This is more than just a beautiful thing. If you’re diverting brilliant, ambitious lawyers from a place like Cambridge, with the promise that another avenue could work for them, providing such additional jobs is a moral imperative.