“Where you start in life should not determine where you end up”, said Law Society president Lubna Shuja when calling for more socio-economic diversity in the law – a sector where over half of partners attended a private school, well above the 6% of the UK population.
While Shuja’s cause may be a familiar one, her focus on ‘where’ may be more fitting than she intended. A host of issues play into disparities in the representation of social groups in the law, but location during the qualification process is a persistent yet preventable challenge.
Going the distance
Commuter students are generally those learners who travel a longer than average distance to reach their place of study – often from outside of their city, or the opposite side. This may be the result of a need to maintain caring responsibilities in an existing home, to remain close to a part-time job, or simply to avoid relocating for a short period of time.
For many, commuting is a financial decision. A study from the Sutton Trust found that 45% of students from the lowest social group commuted to university from home, compared to just 13% of those from the highest group. Areas surrounding higher education institutions are often costly, with student demand pushing up rent values. With a typical LPC costing £16,000, the additional financial burden of relocation is unfeasible for many law students.
The toll of travelling
Although avoiding a move can be a saving measure for students, commuting in a higher education system designed for proximate students is not without its challenges. The Higher Education Policy Group found that learners with longer travel times to their place of study have significantly lower progression rates than those living nearby.
With less socioeconomically advantaged individuals disproportionately represented in the commuter group, this inequality at the earliest step in qualification establishes a pattern carried into the highest ranks of law firms.
For one of our co-founders, Eve Dullabh, a taxing commute was an unavoidable element of the legal qualification process. She said “I spent hours on the train every day, going from home, to my classes, to my part-time paralegal job. The travelling exhausted me and cut into my study time. It’s difficult to gain an LPC at the best of times and commuting made it even more so.”
Bringing learning to learners
This formative experience was a strong motivation for Eve when co-founding Law Training Centre, where students can pursue any route to legal qualification completely online. Virtual studies offer an alternative to students who do not wish to relocate for their studies, allowing them to reclaim time and funds that would otherwise have been lost to commuting.
For learners from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, those caring for family members, or maintaining full or part time work, travelling to study is a barrier that can compromise their performance or even prevent them from attaining legal qualifications altogether.
Through our virtual platform, Law Training Centre’s learners are empowered with the ability to study anywhere, at any time. In a sector where a boost to diversity is desperately needed, life shouldn’t fit around learning, learning should fit around life.