According to the latest annual statistics report from the Law Society there has been a 16% decrease in the number of training contracts available in 2010-2011, from 5,809 to 4,874. The figure peaked in 2007-2008 with 6,303 training contracts on offer; hence we have seen a 23% fall at the current level.
These stats run alongside a 5% increase in the number of Legal Practice Course (LPC) places, currently at 15,166 (2010-2011). It is clear to the casual observer that these two figures are resulting in the oversupply of lawyers-to-be, with many LPC students getting into high levels of debt with highly diminished chances of successfully gaining a training contract. While this extremely high number of LPC places to training contracts available is clearly not appropriate (and indeed looks like it will be limited in the future by the Law Society), it is clear that the continued supply of aspiring lawyers needs to remain.
The report shows that the legal market has actually continued to expand in recent years despite the most notable recession since the Second World War engulfing our economy. The total number of solicitors on the Roll actually increased 3.3% last year to 150,128, while the number of solicitors with practising certificates increased by 2.1% to 117,862. There were 10,413 solicitor firms registered in England and Wales in 2010, an increase of 0.5% on the previous year.
The number of solicitors holding practising certificates has grown by 211.5% since 1980, expanding at an average annual rate of 3.9%. So, while the average annual rate of increase is currently below this average, we are not in the negative yet, and with the continued optimism within the economic outlook, it looks like this will not materialise. It seems clear to us at CapeClarke that this 16% decrease in Training Contracts available has been an incredibly necessary short term fix, which has gone a long way to help firms balance sheets, however with the return to economic growth the outlook for training contract numbers looks incredibly positive.