Law students altering career intentions to be revealed

A new survey will track law students over three years to discover how their career intentions alter over their degree.

The data should illuminate students’ changing attitudes to the profession and their chances of a career in it.

Hardee Consulting, which is undertaking the survey funded by the Higher Education Authority, said: “Those in the profession have always suspected that a lot more students than those who came into the profession started out wanting to do law. Whether their aims are realistic is another matter.”

Consultant Melissa Hardee undertook a survey last April which revealed that 80 per cent of students wanted a career in the law at the beginning of their degree but just 40-50 per cent who take law at university actually enter the profession.

The survey of intent will track the same students for three years at 16 universities; a mixture of Russell, non-Russell pre-1992 and post-1992 institutions in equal measure and across the country.

“Because I can track it over three years I can tailor the responses at different points” Hardee adds “The second questionnaire at the end of the first year will focus on how their career intentions have changed since enrolment and how they perceive where the emphasis lies on the different components of the law degree and where they think it should lie.”

Hardee’s previous survey revealed that students were uninformed about their prospects of a legal career and felt that careers advice at school and university was not serving them as it should, though lecturers and tutors were found to be the best source of accurate and honest information.

Hardee said: “It’s over the course of their studies that reality hits them and they find out what their prospects are and they don’t have this information when they start out.

“It could just be that they are not focused on this stuff at the beginning of their degrees. It could also be that universities are not necessarily giving the full picture – this is the eternal conflict with universities: they need students, they need the numbers.

“So are they going to give out that difficult message: come and do the course but you have no guarantee of a job? This is the difficulty but you can’t just lay the blame at any particular door.”

She added: “There is a real problem about whether students are choosing to do law in an informed way, especially those who want to be barristers – do they realise how little chance they have of getting pupillage and the costs associated with it.”

The news follows City of Westminster & Holborn Law Society’s plan to introduce work experience placements for students who have never completed a vacation scheme. (18 December 2012)