Law students are fiercely ambitious and optimistic about their careers, despite still harbouring worries about the recession, with seven in ten saying that their ultimate career goal is to become a law firm partner or a judge.
According to an annual survey carried out by The College of Law, the largest postgraduate legal training organisation in Europe, 65% of students are confident of enjoying a lifelong career in law while nearly a third expect to be in the profession at least for the medium term.
Although they envisage a bright future ahead, they remain cautious about the immediate economic climate with 53% stating that they are uncertain if the country is in fact emerging from recession.
The survey was carried out among all students on the College’s Graduate Diploma in Law, the Legal Practice Course and the Bar Vocational Course between September 18 and 29.
Of the 2,380 respondents, 61% thought that trainee vacancies in the legal industry would stay at the same level for the next few years while 19% predicted that they would continue to fall. More than half admitted that they were very concerned about their chances of obtaining a training contract in a law firm or a pupillage for prospective barristers, with 25% stating that they had slight concerns.
The amount that prospective solicitors expect to earn on average when they start work has dropped to £38,600 from £40,100 last year. However aspiring barristers remain more optimistic on pay with their expected earnings rising to £32,500 compared with £31,500 in 2008.
Debt levels continue to rise with the amount of debt that students expect to be in when they enter employment increasing sharply from an average of £15,300 last year to £17,700. More than 40% predict debt of £20,000 and above with 6% expecting it to exceed £40,000, up from 3% in 2008.
However there is evidence that students do not see high levels of debt as a barrier to higher education. When asked for their reactions to recent media reports that average student debt could soar to £23,000 and more, nine in ten respondents said that they would still have undertaken a university degree even if they knew their debts would reach this level.
Nigel Savage, Chief Executive of The College of Law, said: “I’m not surprised by the outcome of the survey. Amidst all the current gloom about the economy, it’s heartening to see that the next generation has not lost the passion and enthusiasm for the legal profession that previous generations have had."
The students were also asked for their reactions to the recent report published by The Panel on Fair Access to the Professions chaired by Alan Milburn. 82% of respondents agreed with its findings that the legal profession is socially exclusive.
They believe that providing more internships with entry based on talent rather than ‘who you know’ would be the most effective of the Panel’s recommendations in widening access to careers in the Law.