A couple of years ago, a controversial essay-writing company caused a storm when it broadened its services to assisting wannabe lawyers with their traineeship applications.
Behind the consequent stern warnings issued to students against resorting to paid-for assistance, and a suggestion from a senior lawyer that to do so equated to "cheating", was concern that a trade in graduate job application assistance could take off in the way it had with essay writing. After all, the company involved was Oxbridge Essays, whose model-answer essay business has caused universities more than a few headaches since its launch in 2006.
Two years on, though, and the legal profession's fears have proved to be largely unfounded, with Oxbridge Essays admitting earlier this week that the legal graduate job application market hasn't turned out to be as lucrative as it had hoped. In 2009, Oxbridge Training Contracts (OTC) – as Oxbridge Essays' law graduate job application spin off is known – claimed to be assisting 75-100 law students a month on tasks ranging from model application form essays and cover letters, to a £500-an-hour "chaperone" service that provided students with a "specialist" to escort them to their interviews.
But Oxbridge Essays' head of sales, John Foster, says "a commercial decision" has recently been taken to "focus less on the training contract and pupillage side of the business" – despite this being the busiest time of year for graduate legal job applications and the junior lawyer graduate recruitment market facing a surge of candidates.
So what went wrong? Foster is reluctant to elaborate on his basic explanation that the "pool of people wanting this type of assistance is relatively small", adding that the few inquiries OTC has had over the last few months have "tended to come from people using other services offered by Oxbridge Essays".
It's not easy to find someone who will admit to using OTC, and Foster refused my request to be put in touch with...
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