• Law students believe economy and career prospects are improving and recognise overseas job opportunities, survey reveals

    1 November 2013

    Law students’ confidence in their career prospects and economic recovery is growing, according to new research which reveals the latest views of law students on the profession and their career aspirations.

    Prospective barristers expect to earn 16% more upon qualification than they predicted in 2012 (an average of £38,600 compared with £33,400 last year). For aspiring solicitors the figure has risen by 3% from £37,600 to £38,800.

    More than nine in 10 law students have confidence in an economic recovery with 77% believing that the UK economy will continue to recover slowly over the next year and 15% asserting that the pace of recovery will increase. Only 7% think that we will go back into recession. More than 60% say the uncertainty in the economy had no impact on their decision to apply to law school with a further 14% even saying it made them more likely to study law.

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

    More than half of respondents (56%) say they are likely to consider practising outside of the UK (74% of undergraduate LL.B students). The United States is the most popular location for both aspiring solicitors and barristers. Australia is the next most popular location for solicitors while barristers prefer the UAE. Both groups are least likely to want to work in India.

    Students appreciate the importance of gaining relevant work experience in order to gain a foothold in the legal profession. 100% of ULaw’s LL.B students and the vast majority (86%) of its students overall have completed legal work experience and/or a legal internship.

    Overall the three most popular reasons for wanting to enter the legal profession were ‘intellectual challenge’, ‘interesting and varied work’ and ‘an interest in law’. As many as 63% of aspiring barristers cite ‘wanting to help people’ as one of the main reasons compared with 53% of aspiring solicitors. Just 47% of prospective barristers name ‘earning potential’ as a major motivator compared with 70% of solicitors.

    The survey was sent in September to all students on the University’s LL.B undergraduate law degree and its postgraduate programmes: Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). It asked for their views on career aspirations, higher education changes and tuition fees, changes to the legal profession, politics and the economy.

    Professor Nigel Savage, President of The University of Law said: “The students have clearly put a lot of thought into why they want a career in law. They show commitment to the profession and are well aware of the practical steps they need to take in order to achieve success. At the same time their confidence in their career prospects as well as in the economy as a whole is growing. Students are clearly switched on to the increasing globalisation of the legal services market and the overseas career opportunities that this offers.”

    The survey also revealed that eight out of ten law students think that withdrawal from the EU would have a negative effect on the UK legal services market, nearly three quarters (72%) think that Scotland should not be independent, 63% say the niqab should not be banned in colleges and universities while 57% think that defendants in rape trials should have anonymity.

    On a lighter note, students also gave their views on popular legal figures. Their favourite fictitious legal character is Harvey Specter from Suits, followed by Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mocking Bird and Elle Woods from Legally Blonde.

    The Times/University of Law Student Survey 2013 – Other key findings:
    • The biggest influence on a student’s decision to enter the legal profession is encouragement from parents/relatives (cited by 34%). By contrast just 7% of aspiring solicitors and 4% of aspiring barristers cited careers advice at school as the main influence. However, only 24% have relatives working in the legal profession.
    • Nearly half (47%) of female students think that their gender is a barrier to reaching board level or achieving partnership status in a law firm. Among students who think that gender is a barrier the prime concern is in how starting a family will affect promotion hopes.
    • For aspiring solicitors the most popular area in which to work is Commercial Law, while aspiring barristers are most interested in the area of crime.
    • 60% of aspiring solicitors and 67% of aspiring barristers feel that a career in Legal Aid is still possible. Of those who think there is no longer a career in Legal Aid, 68% of aspiring barristers would have considered this option before the recent cuts.
    • 56% of aspiring solicitors think that life as a corporate lawyer is too stressful but of these only half (54%) would be discouraged from a corporate career.
    • Almost two thirds of students (64%) feel that the increase in undergraduate tuition fees will lead to more students living at home and studying at a local university. Over half of current LL.B students (54%) are living at home or in their home town while studying.
    • The proportion of LL.B students who said they nearly did not study for a degree because of higher fees has dropped from 17% last year to 5% this year.
    • The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) has recommended that apprenticeships and non-graduate pathways into law should be developed. However, 64% said they would still prefer to study for a degree even if students did not need to study at university to become a lawyer and could start work immediately post-school.
    • In next year’s elections to the European Parliament 24% of students will vote Labour, 23% will vote Conservative and 5% Liberal Democrat.
    • 55% think that Prince Charles should be the next monarch with 45% saying the crown should pass to Prince William.

    Download a summary of the survey results ADD FILE

    Download the full survey results ADD FILE

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