Entering the legal profession has become harder than ever, with the latest Law Society data revealing that the number of training contracts offered by law firms in England & Wales is at its lowest level since 1999.
The Law Society’s Annual Statistical Report reveals that the number of training contracts registered to July 2012 stood at 4,869; a 10.5% drop compared to the 5,441 registrations in 2011. The report also reveals that new solicitor admissions have seen nearly a 25% drop from 8,402 in 2011 to 6,330 in 2012.
However, the decline in individual solicitors qualifying into the profession contrasts with the number of private practice firms in England & Wales, which fell by less than 1% from 10,202 to 10,102 – a decline of just under 1%.
Practising certificate holders working in firms during the same period also only fell very marginally, from 87, 973 to 87,768. The trend contrasts sharply with figures dating back to 1982 where practising certificate holders increased by 208.5% at an annual average rate of 3.8%.
‘There is fiercer competition in the legal market than ever before and many of the assumptions that have underpinned the nature and status of practising as a lawyer are being challenged in this difficult environment,’ said Desmond Hudson, Law Society chief executive.
Reports of a decline in opportunities available to new entrants to the profession follow recent news that magic circle firm Allen and Overy has increased trainee pay rates, bringing to an end a three-year freeze.
It was the first to raise the stakes among its peers this year, with first-year trainees taking home £39,000 – an increase of £1,000 from May 2008 – which will take effect this September.