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Legal Education & Training – A Missed Opportunity

The long awaited report into legal training and education was released recently.

After being commissioned by the three regulatory bodies of the legal profession, the SRA (Solicitors Regulatory Authority), the BSB (Bar Standards Board) and the ILEX Professional Standards (for Legal Executives), and after several years, Professor Julian Webb and his team submitted their initial report into legal services education and training (LSET) before the Big Three regulators.

The findings? The breathtaking and groundbreaking changes?

As Prof. Webb stated at the beginning of the report, the current LSET system provides  “a good standard of education and training, enabling the development of the core knowledge and skills needed for practice across the range of regulated professions.” Such an approach summarises the findings.

LETR found that there were no grave issues for concern, and no drastic changes were needed. However, when the study was commissioned in 2011, and indeed today, many in the legal profession felt that, although not dreadful, there were some issues with LSET that needed to be addressed.

Not according to LETR. Admittedly, some issues and concerns were raised (ethics, the role of paralegals, more standardised training and other minor issues), but no great deficiencies were found in the current system.

There is a sense amongst commentators and those in the legal profession that the report lacked ‘bite’ and impact, and that, essentially, this was a missed opportunity to effect change in LSET, and to address what issues there were. With a collective shrug of their shoulders, commentators have accepted it for better or worse. On his Lawyer Watch blog, Richard Moorhead addresses LETR very succinctly (LETR: Why everyone is happy and no one is smiling).

The report does identify areas of concern- it does make recommendations for action. However, it falls short of making definitive, sweeping recommendations, and does not advocate any form of definitive action.

LETR is very vague; it is almost as if it is an united guest trying to make itself inconspicuous. It mentions ‘issues’ and ‘points for concern’, but fails to address what those are. It then further fails to suggest changes to tackle those issues.

The Big Three regulators, in their response, have welcomed the report, and say that its findings will be taken into consideration. It must be noted that none of the regulators are bound to accept and implement the report’s findings. Essentially, it is business as usual for the regulators- especially as little has changed. Law schools have taken a similar line in response.

There are some radical suggestions, though. The suggestion for paralegals to be able to practice law for staters, as is removing wills and advocacy from the LPC. Given the muted reaction to the report overall, it is unlikely that these bold steps will be given the consideration that they deserve.

The report highlights that fact that there is nothing wrong with LSET in this jurisdiction. That is beyond the point; also, such knowledge was well known. The report did little to identify and alter what issues there are.

Everyone is happy with the outcome of the LETR, despite the issues with gathering the research, and several delays. However, no one is thrilled with it. The general feeling is one of business as normal, and very much a missed opportunity.

 

Guest Article written by Kate Matheson of NoWinNoFeeClaims.co.