Too many lawyers? It’s a question that’s asked with increasing frequency and in the UK, where there are around 200,000 lawyers, being one in 300 in the population, there are surplus lawyers in numbers that may number tens of thousands.
The Guardian reports on a legal recruiter, Samuel Clague, who has set up a legal recruitment business and is amazed at the numbers of lawyers he has already attracted to the agency.
In a country where there are as many as 200,000 lawyers – about one in 300 of the population – there may be a surplus of tens of thousands of highly educated applicants.
Burdened with crumpled expectations and large debts, sometimes of more than £50,000, acquired through course fees and living expenses, many find work as paralegals earning less than £20,000 a year with few prospects for promotion. By contrast, solicitors in the City of London may start on £38,000 and within two years can be earning £90,000.
Clague studied economics and business at Durham University. He graduated in 2008 then borrowed £25,000 to do law conversion studies – essential for those whose first degree was not law – and for the legal practice course (LPC) needed to become a solicitor.
But on graduation, two years later, he discovered there were not enough training contracts and that he had failed to secure a job.
“I wanted to be a solicitor. If you spend that much you want a return,” he said. “I went to admission days and did tests but never quite got over the line. There’s a huge backlog of well-qualified candidates working as paralegals and still looking to become solicitors.”
A year later, he set up a recruitment agency, the Stephen James Partnership, to help qualified lawyers, and was stunned when graduates and law firms came in droves.
“We have 10,000 people registered. I met one person who completed their LPC 10 years ago and is still looking for a training contract,” he said. “The situation is even worse for those trying to become barristers. I have spoken to people who have first and upper second class degrees from Oxbridge and can’t get a pupillage. There’s a huge oversupply of law graduates and paralegals, so the firms are able to depress wages unless you get into a specialist area. We see people with £65,000 of debt. It’s a tough place to be for a lot of people.”