The body representing chartered legal executives has called on the profession to end discrimination against lawyers who have qualified through non-university routes and for the senior judiciary to be opened up to those who enter the law by alternative means.
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) said its members who have qualified via vocational and apprenticeship routes often still report they have “experienced professional disadvantage”.
In its submission to the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility, CILEx argued this prejudice “commonly arises from a lack of perceived parity because of the route to qualification they have taken”.
It called on the professions to “encourage and promote those who have qualified through non-university routes”, adding: “This would mean that regardless of background or educational route, a person would not be limited in their career opportunities because their qualifications happened to be taken through an apprenticeship or vocational setting.”
It added: “CILEx recommends that senior posts within the leading professions, such as senior judicial posts, should be appointed on merit alone and not be restricted to those who have qualified through the university route.
“Primarily though, we recommend that parity for the university, vocational and apprenticeship routes into the leading professions should be the highest priority – to ensure that regardless of the route to qualification, no one is prevented from achieving their full potential.”
The representative body pointed out that it costs on average less than £10,000 to qualify as a chartered legal executive, versus £25,000-£50,000 as a solicitor and up to £127,000 as a barrister. Meanwhile, 82% of CILEx’s 20,000 members do not have a parent who went to university and 74% of them are women.
It acknowledged that various social mobility efforts existed in the law, but said: “Such initiatives provide important opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the efforts of those involved should be recognised and applauded.
“However, the fact that such schemes are necessary is indicative of the presence of barriers that prohibit those from certain backgrounds from accessing both the qualifications to become a solicitor or barrister, or from entering the professions themselves.
“It is also highly unlikely that, without significant upscaling of such initiatives, they will only assist a small number of people without resolving the wider barriers. “