We are becoming an increasingly litigious society. Where once we looked to the traditions of our constitution or the might of our trade unions to resolve our disputes, these days we turn to the law. Increasingly every aspect of daily life is becoming enshrined in law.
As trade union power has declined, the number of applications to employment tribunals has gone up. In the last decade they have increased from 40,000 to 120,000 a year. Similarly, health service costs are spiralling due to the vast increase in compensation claims and payouts. If in doubt we turn to a lawyer and, therefore, knowledge of the law is becoming a boon to a wide range of professionals.
Law training and law courses are changing as a result. In particular the growth in distance learning LLB Bachelor of Law degrees as well as LLM Master of Law courses, is due to the fact that increasing numbers of professionals wish to add a law string to their bow.
Nottingham Law School, part of Nottingham Trent University, along with many other law schools, offers a full-time LLB degree, but in recent years it has also introduced a four-year sandwich as well as a distance-learning degree.
These developments have been driven by the fact that although 12- 13,000 students graduate in law every year, there are only 4,500- 5,000 training contracts. Students undertaking the sandwich course spend their first two years in the law school, but the third year is spent gaining experience in a solicitor's practice before returning for their final year in college. The year out, according to Philip Huxley, course leader for Nottingham Law School's distance learning LLB, gives graduates a competitive edge. He said: "These students tend to come out with good degrees and are popular with employers."
Colin Bourn, director of the International Centre for Management, Law and Industrial Relations at Leicester University said both undergraduate courses, as well as the Law Society and the Bar's professional qualifying courses, were becoming more practically oriented as well as seeking to put law in the context of society as a whole. He said: "Qualifying courses tend to include things like the drafting of documents, case preparation and cross-examination to a greater extent. There was very little of that when I was studying."
However, Mr Huxley also believes that distance learning law courses are the way forward. As many as 1,200 students are following a distance learning LLB from London University's external relations department in any one year and over 400 are registered at the Nottingham Law School. Nottingham is working hard to develop a course that will give maximum support to students by way of residential weekends and tailor-made materials. …