A NEW study is to be carried out into the barriers facing bright pupils from poorer backgrounds who want to join the legal profession.

The Law Society of Scotland said the project would look at the current route to qualifications as well as other aspects such as course costs.

The students – who come from universities across the country – are petitioning the Law Society of Scotland, arguing the current arrangements discriminate against people from deprived backgrounds.

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The campaigners want studying to become a solicitor to be given equal status with pursuing a medical degree, to ensure students receive full financial support for the duration of their study period.

Currently, students who complete a four-year law degree receive lower levels of financial help when they go on to complete their training with a post-graduate diploma – adding as much as £10,000 to any existing debts.

An alternative solution would be for students to work during the latter period of their training, to ensure debt does not put off those from poorer backgrounds.

In January, The Herald revealed fewer than one in 12 entrants to law degree courses at Scottish universities come from deprived backgrounds, raising fears the profession is still a middle-class preserve.

The Law Society said the review would be overseen by its education and training committee and is expected to be completed in the autumn. A formal request for views will be issued in the coming weeks.

The Law Society Council also agreed to continue to press the Scottish Government for improved funding arrangements for students studying the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice. This follows changes last year that saw grants for 300 diploma students replaced by loans open to all diploma students.

Austin Lafferty, president of the Law Society, said: "A successful legal profession must be a diverse legal profession, made up of all people from all backgrounds.

"It is an issue which the society takes seriously and the Campaign for Fair Access is to be congratulated for ensuring it remains firmly on our agenda.

"The important task is to properly understand what barriers exist, where they lie and what impact they really have."