We are acutely aware that Deaf law students find it difficult to enter the legal profession. Rosaline Sullivan produced a research paper in July 2010 commissioned by the Legal Services Board identifying “Barriers to the legal profession”, and observed that obtaining training contracts or pupillages could be notoriously difficult, and hit the nail on the head by stating that:
In the legal market such cumulative problems: failing to gain the right A-levels; not getting work experience in law firms while at school; attending the wrong university; training at the wrong firm all add up to insurmountable barriers that permanently effect the careers of lawyers and segregate the market.
Law students seeking to obtain a training contract or pupillage face stiff competition and often insurmountable obstacles in overcoming attitudes and other associated barriers in progressing further in the legal profession.
Gaining a training contract is considered much more difficult than gaining a place on the LPC. In 2008, the Law Society reported that 7,000 individuals completed the LPC with only 6,000 training contracts available in 2009 (cited in The Lawyer). Students are aware of the competition in the market, with the average student applying to 46 organisations, though 22% had applied to 100 places or more. This competition for places constitutes a further, greater, barrier to entry to the profession (Shiner and Newburn, 1995).
Places for pupillages, as with training contracts, are difficult to secure with Mason (2004) noting that there are over three times the number of would-be-pupils as there are pupillages.
Given that the paper focuses on gender, age, ethnic background and social class, as opposed to say, disability, we can presume that having a disability is a further bar on law students who seek to become solicitors or barristers, particularly if they are Deaf.
With this in mind, Deaf Lawyers UK is committed to providing Deaf law students with the opportunity to benefit from mentoring by a Deaf lawyer who has “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”, provide work experience, and provide advice and guidance about how to secure that ever elusive training contract or pupillage.
We are currently in the process of developing our mentoring and work experience schemes, and more information will be posted here in due course.