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Only half of lawyers would have decided to go to university

Posted by: Laurence Simons 08/11/11
  • £88,700 opportunity cost of higher education means only 49% of lawyers would have decided to go to university today
  • Universities must follow AC Grayling’s model to survive

If faced with today’s costs, only 49% of lawyers would have gone to university.

The coalition’s increase of university tuition fees to £9,000 per year means the cost of doing a three year course – including fees, loans and the opportunity cost of not being in work – now stands at £88,700.

When legal recruiter Laurence Simons asked 224 lawyers whether they would have chosen to go to university if it had cost as much as it does today, only 49% said they would.

Currently, new law graduates earn an average salary of just under £36,500, which means it would take almost two and a half years to earn enough to cover the cost of their higher education (and that’s if they spent no money on anything else!).

Naveen Tuli, managing director of Laurence Simons comments: “People considering university should bear in mind not only the price of tuition and the debt they will take on, but also the financial loss from not working for three years. When you do this, the total cost of university begins to look very large indeed. The fact that some of the UK’s lawyers don’t think doing a degree is worth the cost shows the UK’s universities have failed to offer value to students and provide a relevant education.

“Unless universities are able to show they offer value for money, the current costs mean they will fail. AC Grayling’s planned £18,000 per year New College of the Humanities may seem expensive at first glance, but by consulting industry experts in order to ensure students learn skills that will be useful in future, Grayling has ensured students’ money won’t be wasted. To be any more than a pointless expense, universities must offer skills and training tailored to a career”.

Unlike other professions such as accountancy, the legal profession continues to recruit almost exclusively from universities. While three of the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms – KPMG, Deloitte and PwC – offer apprenticeship schemes for school leavers who want to focus on their professional training straight after school, none of the magic circle firms in the UK offers anything similar to aspiring lawyers.

Naveen Tuli says “The legal sector is behind the times. Employers have placed too great an emphasis on having a degree. The industry is shooting itself in the foot. Failure to engage with the generation of talented people who don’t see the benefit of a university education that comes with an astronomical price tag means they will miss out on top talent, by ignoring capable people who will shun law because it’s too expensive to get a foot in the door.”