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UK law students aspire to international careers

US and Australia most favoured overseas destinations  

11 November 2013

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

More than half of aspiring English solicitors would like to practise abroad, according to a survey of more than 1,500 students, of which 87 per cent intend to qualify as a solicitor.

The US topped the list of overseas destinations among those studying to become a solicitor, preferred by 48 per cent of respondents. Australia came in second (22 per cent), followed by Canada (16 per cent) and UAE (15 per cent).

Interestingly, emerging markets are out of favour with aspiring solicitors. India was voted as the jurisdiction in which they would least like to work (44 per cent), followed by South Africa (26 per cent) and China (21 per cent).

Commenting on the survey findings, professor Nigel Savage, president of The University of Law, said: “Students are clearly switched on to the increasing globalisation of the legal services market and the overseas career opportunities that this offers.”

When asked about their main motivators for becoming a solicitor, respondents highlighted their expectation of intellectual challenge (80 per cent) and interesting and varied work (77 per cent). Interest in the law (75 per cent) was the next highest reason, followed by earning potential (70 per cent).

Perceptions about the impact of alternative business structures (ABSs) on legal careers were mixed. Sixty-nine per cent of all respondents felt that ABSs would provide a wider range of employment opportunities for lawyers. Similarly, 52 per cent were optimistic about the prospect of skills development and career progression at ABSs.

However, 59 per cent were concerned that ABSs would pressure legal salaries downwards, while 52 per cent said they expected the provision of lower-skilled jobs at ABSs to reduce the status of lawyers.

Among the 1,387 respondents intending to qualify as a solicitor, 57 per cent said they would not seek to join an ABS, while 42 per cent said they would be equally happy working at a law firm as at an ABS. Only one per cent said they would prefer to work at an ABS rather than a law firm.

Opinion was divided as to whether law degrees should have a stronger focus on vocational training in preparation for students’ chosen career paths. Forty-four per cent of all respondents said that a law degree should be largely academic and that vocational training should take place at a later stage. However, 56 per cent said that the majority of law degrees are too academic and should include more vocational training.

The survey by The University of Law received responses from 1,594 students across its LPC (60 per cent), GDL (32 per cent), BPTC (5 per cent) and LL.B (2 per cent) courses.

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