Figures suggest high number of student solicitors unable to secure apprenticeships

Students being exploited by high exam fee and no chance of training after

Speaking on the Legal Services Bill this evening (Tuesday), Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said the current system of training and education for solicitors is unfair, with many trainees apparently unable to secure apprenticeships and complete their training after taking their exams.

“When consideration is given to the number of students qualifying as solicitors, compared to the numbers who sit the exams, even accounting for a percentage that may be unsuccessful, they simply do not add up.

“In 2006, between the April and October sittings of the FE1 exams, roughly 1,706 students took the papers. Three years later, in 2009, after the required period of time to undergo an apprenticeship had lapsed, just 705 students qualified as solicitors.

“In 2007, the number sitting the exams was in the region of 1,712, with the number of trainees qualifying three years later in 2010 standing at 729. Even accounting for high exam failure rates, it is difficult to understand how just 42% of those who took the FE1 exams in ’07 went on to qualify in 2010.

“These numbers simply do not add up. One can only conclude that there is a sizeable number of students completing their FE1’s who cannot acquire an apprenticeship after their exams and consequently cannot complete their training. This is an unfortunate situation and a difficult one for the students concerned. FE1 exams are expensive to take, at ■110 per paper, with eight papers in total, bringing the total cost to students of ■880. There is no grant or subsidy available to students taking the exam and the qualification gained on completion is only recognised by the Law Society.

“Our current system is expensive, it is not student friendly and it is putting up road blocks for a large number of our students.

“If the number of apprenticeships available is radically disproportionate to the numbers taking these expensive exams, I cannot help but feel that students are being exploited. The Legal Service Regulatory Authority has been given two years to compile a report into this matter and to investigate issues surrounding examinations in legal subjects.

“I look forward to the report from the Authority and to any recommendations it will make to ameliorate the present situation for our many hopeful student solicitors.”

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