The Law Society of Ireland is marking over 20 years of its Access Programme, which has provided financial and practical supports to over 300 aspiring solicitors to date.
The Access Programme aims to assist students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds to enter professional legal education and be financially supported from the Final Entrance Exams – First part (FE-1) right through to qualification.
Chairperson of the Law Society’s Education Committee, Richard Hammond S.C., said, “The Law Society is proud to improve access to the solicitors’ profession through its Access Programme. The programme helps promote greater diversity within the solicitors’ profession, and this is vital to help build a legal profession that reflects the diversity of the society it serves.”
“Since 2001, over 300 students have benefited from the programme, with one in four of these being from countries other than Ireland. Many recipients are now successfully practising in a wide range of legal positions including as in-house solicitors, within top commercial law firms and as sole practitioners,” he said.
Mariam Olusoji’s journey
Mariam Olusoji qualified as a solicitor with the Law Society in December 2020. However, even with several degrees under her belt and already being a qualified lawyer in her home country of Nigeria, her journey to becoming a solicitor in Ireland was not straightforward.
It wasn’t until 2017, after Ms Olusoji had already passed her FE-1 exams that she first heard of the Access Scholarship Programme. At this time, Ms Olusoji was living in Cork with her family and when she applied to the programme she was granted funding. She credits this as a key factor to her qualifying as a solicitor in Ireland.
“My experience with the Access Programme was extremely positive. The grant provided with practical supports and peace of mind. I started to feel a sense of belonging and security thanks to the Law Society,” said Ms Olusoji, who now works remotely for Robinson Solicitors, Dublin 7.
“The Access Programme paid for my Professional Practice Course (PPC) 1 and PPC 2 course fees and offered me free accommodation at the Law Society during my first days in Dublin,” she explained. “It also provided a maintenance fee for living costs while studying, which I was very grateful for.”
“I was lucky to find a room to rent in Dublin during this time, but I am a mother to four boys who were at home in Fermoy so I couldn’t stay in Dublin full-time. Each weekend I travelled back home and would return to Dublin on Sunday night. I don’t think I would have been able to do this if it wasn’t for the support of the Law Society.”
Who should apply
“The programme is open to everyone and there is no age restriction on applicants. Though a common trait amongst applicants is that but for the assistance of the Access Programme, those individuals feel that they would not be in a position to train as a solicitor. This feeling can be due to a lack of financial resources among other reasons,” explained Mr Hammond.
“Each year the Law Society receives approximately 85 applications to join the Access Programme, with about 80% of which are successful. No candidate meeting the assessment criteria has ever been refused funding,” he said.
Mariam Olusoji said, I have a passion for learning and a love for law. I love what I do. I would encourage anyone who wants to qualify as a solicitor that needs support from the programme to apply. The journey might seem difficult, but with the Law Society’s help, your hard work now will be worth it in your future.”
The Law Society’s Access Programme accepts applications twice a year. The next deadline for applications is Wednesday 1 June 2022. For more information, see: www.lawsociety.ie/Public/Become-a-Solicitor/fe1-funding
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