Calls for major reform to law training

Calls for major reform to law training

first_imgPressure mounted for sweeping reform of the education and training of lawyers this week, as regulators announced a root-and-branch review of the current framework. The review was unveiled as research seen by the Gazette suggested that there are currently three times more final-year law students who want to become solicitors than there are places available. Another study this week recommended the abolition of the training contract. Last week, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Bar Standards Board and the Institute of Legal Executives announced a joint review of legal training and education. The review will examine whether the current framework will be fit for purpose when the Legal Services Act is fully implemented to allow alternative business structures next year. It will encompass the pathways to qualification, continuing professional development requirements and the regulation of legal education providers. The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) called on the three regulators to ensure that the review addresses the current oversupply of Legal Practice Course graduates and backlog of students still searching for training contracts. JLD executive committee member Kevin Poulter said the review should also assess whether the LPC course is fit for purpose and value for money. David Edmonds, chair of the Legal Services Board, the overarching regulator which has overseen the review’s agenda, said no part of the ‘student journey’ should be off limits if the review is to be a ‘genuine watershed’. He said the exercise must lead to ‘concrete recommendations’ for change, with conclusions beginning to emerge next year. In an indication of what may be contained in the proposals, Edmonds added that the time prospective lawyers have to spend in education should diminish, which could reduce student debt. Diane Lawson, SRA interim head of education and training, said that ‘proportionate regulation’ would be high among the review’s priorities. ‘If SRA regulation is needlessly adding to the cost of entering the profession, then we will look for a remedy,’ she said. In an early bid to influence the review, the College of Law’s Legal Services Policy Institute published a report recommending that training contracts be scrapped, with the LPC course becoming the new gateway to the profession. It said there should be a new type of law degree specifically tailored for those who intend to enter the practising profession, which would be more relevant to the vocational stages of legal training. Reserved legal activities such as probate and litigation should become subject to separate authorisation after qualification, it suggested. Meanwhile, responses from 10,000 law students in a study by careers information website allaboutlaw.co.uk indicated that 50% will seek to qualify as solicitors. The careers service said that, based on the current training contract levels, there are likely to be three times more students seeking places this year than the number ­available.last_img

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