No need to limit law student numbers, says Professor

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A recent report by the Law Society of NSW has found that Australian law students are highly anxious about finding employment after graduating, but has determined that there is no reason to set a cap on law student numbers.

While the Law Society suggests that more accurate data should be gathered to fully assess the lack of employment opportunities, it questioned whether the job market is in fact in decline, and if all law graduates intended to work in the field.
The report suggests that universities should work more closely with students to assist them in finding a job.
Professor Lesley Hitchens, Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Technology, Sydney, said that while the economy may not be where it was, students can take comfort in the fact that in 2013, 78.5% of law graduates were employed full time.
“Students have worked towards a goal of graduating and gaining employment for three to five years, within an economy that is not as robust as previous years, and I think it is normal and understandable that they may feel anxious about their future job prospects. And that goes for most graduates, not just law graduates,” she said.  “I think it is fair to say the opportunities are still there, but it is a competitive market.”
The report attributes many factors to the perception of a lack of jobs for graduates, including economic and new technological factors, and found no reason to limit the number of students into degrees as a result.
Professor Hitchens agreed, saying that there are many employment opportunities open to law graduates, outside of practicing as a lawyer.
“The nature of a law degree is that it opens up many opportunities and students should think broadly about their employment prospects,” said Professor Hitchens. 
“Given the current information we have, which is limited, I do not see a need for limiting the number of law students.  More importantly I think prospective students, together with their friends and family, are in the best position to make a decision around their own studies and eventual job prospects, rather than a quota being applied.”
  • Paul on 7/05/2015 9:37:41 AM

    As a senior practitioner of over 30 years standing, as I see it, the number of law schools should be immediately culled. My training was one of excellence. If one wants to be admitted he/she should have substantial pre admission experience perhaps with the return of articles. As the years roll on I see standards drop. I am told it is substantially due to the pressure put on the faculties to pass the fee paying students.

    When the new graduate is employed the employer teaches the new lawyer, at a substantial cost. This investment in earlier times worked both ways. The young lawyer learnt. The employer was rewarded. It has all changed .Now the newly admitted lawyer generally moves on immediately after (their, generally wrong perception of) being trained. At worst they are, to be polite not suitable to the type of work I do. Here the employer cops an enormous loss in investing in a failure. The standards of the new graduates are, in my view, now, substantially lower than in prior times.

    If one had to be employed, gainfully in a legal environment throughout the whole of the studying period, in my view a more rounded, better trained lawyer will be produced. However, the academic standards must rise. Gone are the days when in semester one it was initially standing room only in the lecture theatre with savage drop out rates eliminating any prior lecture theatre seating arrangements.

    Further in earlier times the bench “barked” (and at relevant times) “savagely barked” at practitioners, particular the newly admitted if; standards, protocols and general legal knowledge were wanting. Then, generally in time the barking ceased and the practitioner was respected by the bench.

    As an aside I hear of and regularly directly observe the horror stories of the gross incompetence of the newly admitted.

    In these modern times and at least in NSW the bench are user friendly to avoid being dobed in to the judicial Commission.

    It should also be noted that many practitioners in my position do not now want to expand. I had 15 with me at one stage. It is now between one and three and now much more rewarding in all ways than having more employees.

  • SAM on 30/04/2015 12:47:00 PM

    I think that there many more Law Schools as we once had. There is no longer a need for the LPA course administered through the Supreme Court as an alternative. There are sufficient universities in Sydney and Regional areas to cater for those desiring to obtain a legal education. As for the numbers, the Professor is saying that the market will sort it out but it is a fact the Law degree is becoming the new Arts degree and its worth will decline. There needs to be stricter quotas than at present.

  • Peter on 29/04/2015 1:26:33 PM

    I read a recent Atlantic Monthly article as to the US system, whereby universities are guaranteed funds from the system for the number of customers they put through. The government only administers the system of student loans. The students end up with the debt burden and poor legal job prospects in a flooded market and (some) degrees of questionable reputation. The universities have a conflict: obvious self interest -v- interests of students. Sound familiar? It is now a business.

  • shane on 29/04/2015 12:34:04 PM

    Why should the government be funding places in a specialist vocational course that struggles to place more than one third of its graduates into the target vocation?

  • Shirley on 29/04/2015 2:53:56 AM

    78.5% of students are 'employed' full time? Employed doing what though? I hear MacDonalds are always on the lookout for staff..... :/

  • Graham on 28/04/2015 3:02:58 PM

    I don't see why Law Schools or the Government should limit places within universities. It is up to prospective students themselves to evaluate the possibility for employment once they graduate and decide whether they wish to spend $50,000+ on a legal qualification. There should be no expectation of a job at the end of any degree, qualifying is just one part of the equation.

  • Michael on 28/04/2015 10:11:00 AM

    I think Profeasor Hitchens may have a vested interest in ensuring numbers aren't capped. Ask recent Graduates or Junior Lawyers about their perspective. I suspect it will be significantly different, and more accurate.

  • Simon on 28/04/2015 12:51:06 PM

    Michael, I agree. If I advertise a position for a junior solicitor I am flooded with prospective employees, and the ones that I speak to have a feeling of desperation about their prospects, and a real fear about their HECs debt.
    There are now clearly too many law schools, and, either the number needs to be reduced, or other means, such as Bar Exams, adopted to reduce numbers.

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