Holyrood’s Justice Committee is calling on schools, universities and the Law Society of Scotland to consider what barriers exist to becoming a lawyer and to take action to remove them.
The Committee heard a range of opinions about access to legal education, including the view that costs may deter students from disadvantaged backgrounds from qualifying as a solicitor. In response, it has suggested a range of possible solutions could be considered, such as giving students more certainty of a job at the end of qualifying process, or providing greater support to cover fees.
The Committee has also called for legal apprenticeships, which are currently being developed by the Law Society of Scotland and Skills Development Scotland, to be progressed without delay.
Speaking as the report was published, Committee Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP, said:
“Becoming a lawyer is a career that many people in Scotland aspire to achieve. The Justice Committee has been considering the pathways that exist, sought to identify possible barriers and ensure that they do not deter able, ambitious people, who do not fit into the traditional mould.
“MSPs heard that efforts to widen access are already being made by a range of organisations, including the Law Society. However, removing barriers wherever they exist should be everyone’s focus.
“Developing legal apprenticeships, which have proven successful elsewhere, could be pivotal. The Committee considers that these should be introduced as soon as possible, and that other options should be kept firmly on the table in the future.”