Northumbria University has joined forces with Irwin Mitchell to pilot a ground-breaking new scheme which will enable would-be lawyers to qualify in just five years and at a fraction of the cost.
The law school at Northumbria has been approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to be the first ever institution to pilot a five-year course the combines with a law degree with both the Legal Practice Course and training contract. Currently, it takes a minimum of six years to qualify as a solicitor.
Irwin Mitchell and Watson Burton have both signed up to be partner law firms on the revolutionary programme, which will see students combine 24-months worth of work placements over their third, fourth and fifth years of study.
Associate dean Kevin Kerrigan said: “It’s the first time ever that the learning of legal rules has been integrated with legal practice. As the university remains the assessor for the work-based learning part of the course, it will make sure that that part will have a formal rigorous framework.”
Kerrigan also said the new course will provide a significant cost saving to students.
The law school will charge students £3,290 per year for the course plus £900 per year extra to cover the LPC modules for the first three years.
“This is a very significant development in legal education and will make qualification as a solicitor a lot more accessible to students,” added Kerrigan.
As part of the course students will work full-time for six months at the university’s student law office, which has been providing free legal advice to the community for more than 20-years and employees around 18 solicitors and barristers.
The programme splits work placements into three sections over the duration of the course. Students will take part in an initial three-month placement in their third year at a partner law firm then six months at the school’s legal advice centre and a final 15-month placement spread across their fourth and fifth year.
But not all students are guaranteed a placement at one of the partner law firms.
In the third year the university selects the most talented students to go for interviews at the partner law firms, where they will be offered placements if successful.
Students who do not get a placement can carry on to complete the four-year existing LLB exempting law degree and will have to find their own training contract once it is completed.
For the purposes of the pilot, Northumbria students who entered year three of the existing LLB Exempting law degree in September 2009 will be given the opportunity to transfer onto the new programme over the next two months for the course to start in June 2010.