GTI Media, the publishers of the Targetjobs websites, have completed their 2012 trainee and law student surveys. The results can be found here.
Results for the trainee survey are derived from an online survey completed by 206 trainee solicitors working at a ‘variety’ of law firms. Headline findings include:
- Just over 70% agreed that the LLB/GDL prepared them ‘quite’ or ‘very’ well for work
- Over 90% thought that the LPC prepared them ‘quite’ or ‘very’ well for legal practice
- About 75% agreed that ‘university’ prepared them ‘reasonably’ or ‘very’ well for their training contract
These headlines obviously suggest a fair degree of satisfaction with the status quo. Neil Rose in Legal Futures has been quick to suggest that “the results arguably run contrary to the sentiments coming out of the ongoing Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) that the LPC is not preparing students adequately.” Of course its Neil’s job to look for an argument, but I have two responses to that statement; first, so far, we have only asked the question, we are still looking at (for) the evidence, either way. Secondly, I’m not sure the evidence to LETR thus far is pointing to radically different conclusions regarding student perceptions (though those of course are just part of the picture, and we are trying to be more nuanced about it, precisely because these sorts of headline stats are of relatively limited value).
As with all stats, the story they tell depends, to an extent, on how we choose to interpret them: glass half full or glass half empty? Should we be concerned that over a quarter of graduates felt that their LLB/GDL did not prepare them ‘at all well’ for the world of work? Similarly, that 68% said the LPC prepared them only ‘quite well’ for the TC might be seen as less than a ringing endorsement. Is ‘quite well’ good enough, or is it realistically as much as we can ask of a classroom-based course?
More than that, however, responses need also to be read in the context of what else was asked, and what else we know about the sample. From the published GTI date the contextual date appears quite limited:
- All respondents are employed as trainees, so the system has worked for them. We don’t know if that predisposes them to the status quo. Would unsuccessful LPC graduands have given a significantly different set of responses?
- We don’t know whether factors like sponsorship, the provider attended, or attendance at a ‘bespoke’ LPC make a difference to perceived satisfaction. Some more sophisticated factor analysis might be really helpful here.
- What if we asked them to envisage a better way of training, how would the LPC compare then?
- What if we also asked them whether the LLB or GDL should be a better preparation for work or not? That might have given a different slant on satisfaction with the degree/GDL
This is not intended to rubbish the GTI findings, but it does highlight (as if we need to!) the difficulty we face in interpreting such broad data. This is one of the reasons we are drawing extensively on qualitative data for LETR, and, interestingly, the individual comments reported by GTI do echo quite a number of the things we are hearing in our fieldwork.
The student survey (705 respondents) also offers some strong measures of student satisfaction: 85% of those studying law were ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ with the quality of their degree, and only 4% felt that their degree did not prepare them for work.
Not surprisingly, the GTI data echoed other recent studies that have emphasised the criticality of work experience to access to the profession. 93% of students stated that they found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to get a vacation placement offer. Students also felt strongly that the profession has an obligation to provide more work experience opprtunities than it currently does.
The survey also reports that 43% of students were thinking about a career outside of law. The report speculates that this may reflect the higher competition for training contracts and pupillages. But again the evidence may not really support this. It is not clear whether the GTI data disaggregate those students considering a non-legal career as a back-up option from those who have no intention of entering the profession. Melissa Hardee’s recent survey, along with other studies going back to the 1980s, suggests that, by the final year of the degree, consistently over a third of law students have no intention to enter practice, indicating perhaps that increased competition may be having less of an impact than the 43% figure at first sight suggests. But food for thought nonetheless.