The College of Law is warning the profession that training contract vacancies are expected to exceed the number of students completing the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
According to the CoL a shortfall could arise as early as this year and may jump considerably in 2011-12, meaning there are 14 per cent more available training contracts than students passing the LPC in that year, a graduate shortfall of around 550.
The predictions coincide with a Law Society warning about the oversupply of law students. It is also in stark contrast with statistics published by the society last week, which revealed that despite 14,510 LPC places being available to law students across two modes of study in 2009-10, only 4,874 training contracts were registered between 1 August 2009 to 31 July 2010.
This, according to the society, is expected to be exacerbated, with the number of LPC places set to rise by 5 per cent to 15,166 during the current academic year (2011-11), with 12,142 full-time and 3,024 part-time places (read more).
CoL chief executive Nigel Savage said: “Cynics are bound to say that it’s in the college’s interest to publish this research. But there’s so much misinformation out there and it’s putting off exactly the type of candidates we should be attracting to the profession from training as lawyers.
“Other professions such as banking and accountancy are looking at more innovative ways of recruiting the best talent and we should be coming up with similar ideas,” added Savage.
Using figures published by the Law Society the CoL forecasts the number of full and part-time students passing the LPC in 2010-11 will be around 4,405, 28 per cent lower than in 2009-10.
This is based on the percentage decline in full-time enrolments this year compared with last, using Central Applications Board figures, and takes into account an historical average LPC pass rate across all institutions of 74 per cent.
But the CoL predicts the number of trainees registered in 2010-11 will fall by just 5.8 per cent compared with last year, based on data for the first six months of the year from the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This means there would be around 4,591 training contracts, more than the number of new LPC graduates.
In 2011-12 there are projected to be 4,563 training contracts, based on the number of vacancies advertised by UK’s top 50 firms, a drop of 0.6 per cent compared with 2010-11. But the number of new LPC graduates is forecast to slump by a further 9 per cent to 4,013, a figure based on CAB data for LPC full-time applications.
The last time there was such a large gap was 1996-97 when there were 9 per cent more training contract vacancies than graduates. This marked the start of a five-year period of graduate shortages in the wake of the early 1990s recession.
Savage added: “We as a profession need to learn the lessons of history to prevent the same mistakes happening again. These forecasts confirm that graduates should look anew at the benefits of pursuing a career in law.”