Second paper published by Legal Education and Training Review Team

Second paper published by Legal Education and Training Review Team

As part of the Legal Education and Training Review commissioned jointly by the Solicitors Regulation authority (SRA) , Bar Standards Board (BSB) and ILEX Professional Standards a further discussion paper has now been produced, highlighting key issues which the profession will need to address when considering changes.

The paper suggests that changes to the current system of legal education and training are likely to be required to ensure that legal professionals possess the necessary skills to practise in the future legal services market. It contends that legal education and training should set out to ensure that legal services providers possess core knowledge, communication, organisational and commercial skills whilst at the same time demonstrating sound practical skills, and a commitment to high ethical standards.

The paper states that evidence indicates that:

” there are gaps, for some purposes, in core knowledge and commercial skills. More fundamental gaps have been highlighted as regards client relations/communication skills, ethical awareness and organisational skills. If this is correct, it is difficult to see that the system as a whole is fit for purpose.”

The paper also highlights the following:

  • Evidence gathered to date indicates that there is too great a reliance on initial training to guarantee ongoing competence and quality;
  • There is a current lack of flexibility in training pathways, and more attention should be paid to actively designing qualifications and awards allowing for clear entry, exit and transfer points;
  • The advantages of setting standards independently of qualifications, clarifying the core common competences that should apply to all forms of regulated legal activity;
  • There is a relative fragmentation of standards as well as the lack of a consistent training framework for paralegals. The paper asks for views on whether coordinated standards for this sector of the profession should be developed and brought within the Legal Services Act framework; and
  • That ethics and values should be at the core of training and regulation as they are integral to the concept of a regulated legal services provider.

The paper goes on to consider the effect the new legal services market will have on legal education and training requirements and puts forward the view that new business models will “disrupt some of the traditionally distinctive ways of working associated with particular titles”. This will have the effect of requiring organisations and individuals to show adaptability and a willingness to develop new skills-sets or extend existing ones, especially in terms of ‘soft’ client-facing skills, and commercial and business skills.

Prof Julian Webb, who leads the Legal Education and Training Review research team said:

“In producing this report, we have drawn on a wide range of evidence, including feedback from the international symposium held in Manchester. The aim of the discussion paper is to inform our stakeholders of our progress, encourage debate, support the ongoing work of the researchers in identifying both the key issues relating to the possible reform of legal education and training in England and Wales, and to map out a range of possible solutions.

“We are keen to engage with all our stakeholders as we continue our research so that the final report is as fully informed as possible. We would, therefore, ask everyone to let us have their views and contributions by 23 October.”

The paper, which can be downloaded from the Legal Education and Training Review web site (http://letr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Discussion-Paper-02_2012final2.pdf) is part of the research stage of Review and the research team’s final report will be submitted in late December 2012.

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