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News - 15 October 2012

Despite the UK recession, two thirds of law students believe they will be able to get a job in the legal profession once they have finished their studies.

Two thirds of law students are confident they will be able to get a job in the legal profession despite the UK recession with 14% of students saying the recession had made them more likely to study law.

The three most popular reasons for wanting to enter the legal profession were ‘interesting and varied work’, ‘an interest in the law’ and ‘intellectual challenge’.

These were among the findings of an annual survey of its students carried out by The College of Law, the largest professional legal training organisation in Europe, in conjunction with The Times newspaper.

The survey was sent in September to all students on the College’s Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). It also went to students on its new two-year LL.B undergraduate law degree, which launched this year. The survey asked for their views on career aspirations, student debt, higher education changes and tuition fees, changes to the legal profession, politics and the economy.

Of the more than 1,900 who responded 40 per cent blame the UK government for the sluggish economy (compared with 33 per cent last year) and 31 per cent blame bankers. Yet the majority see a glimmer of hope on the horizon with 70 per cent believing that in five years' time the economy will be slowly recovering.

If there was a General Election tomorrow 32 per cent would vote Labour, 29 per cent Conservative and 6 per cent Liberal Democrat. Of the Conservative voters more than a third would prefer London Mayor Boris Johnson as party leader.

Three quarters feel that higher tuition fees will deter the best talent from less affluent or non-traditional backgrounds from applying to university. Of the LL.B students, the first intake of undergraduates to be directly affected by higher fees, 17 per cent very nearly did not study for a degree because of the fee rises and a third had some doubts about going on to higher education. However 70 per cent of post-graduate students would still have opted to study a degree if tuition fees had been at £9,000 when they went to university.

Post-graduate students’ average debt has risen slightly to £15,800, compared with £15,600 last year, with 41 per cent shouldering debts of more than £20,000. Undergraduates expect to have an average debt of £20,800 by the time they finish their degree. However at the same time the students’ salary expectations on qualifying have increased. Aspiring solicitors now expect to earn an average of £37,600 compared with £37,200 in 2011. Would-be barristers’ expected salary has increased slightly from £33,300 last year to £33,400.

The students were also asked for their thoughts on the ideas being discussed by the ongoing Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) on how to open up the legal profession to a wider variety of entrants including non-graduates. Two thirds said they would still prefer to study for a degree even if students did not need to go to university to become a lawyer and could start work immediately after leaving school. Some 85 per cent of undergraduates and 54 per cent of postgraduates believe that the majority of law degrees are too academic and should include more vocational training.

Professor Nigel Savage, Chief Executive of The College of Law, said: “I find it heartening that the students show such confidence in their future legal careers despite being realistic about the ongoing challenges faced by the UK economy. We should feel good that they want to join the legal services sector for the right reasons and I hope that our leaders shaping policy in the higher education and legal education sectors will listen to what they are saying."