Legal education and training in England and Wales remains of a good standard overall but must focus on quality, accessibility and flexibility to remain fit for the future, key research report finds.
The Legal Education and Training Report was published on 25 June 2013 following two years of research to examine how fit for purpose the education and training system for lawyers in England and Wales is. The report is the first stage in a wide review of the regulation of legal education and training and provides a significant part of the evidence base that will inform regulatory policy making in the future.
The research focused in particular on whether the ethical standards and levels of competence of those delivering legal services in regulated law firms are sufficient to secure a high standard of service for clients, and to support the public interest and the rule of law.
The report’s recommendations are high level and do not address questions of implementation. The legal regulatory bodies must now determine how they respond to the findings of the research. However, the recommendations in the report do highlight three key areas that the regulators will need to consider:
Outcomes and standards
The report identifies the need to strengthen requirements for education and training in legal ethics, values, professionalism, and equality and diversity. It also highlights a need to further develop management and communication skills.
The report calls for a more robust system of learning outcomes and standards and advises increased standardisation of assessment as a result of concern about inconsistency between providers of legal education and training.
The regulators are urged to concentrate their regulatory focus on setting standards of competence and ensuring that these have been met, rather than concerning themselves with quality assuring the routes by which competence may be acquired.
The report also advocates the development of outcomes and standards for paralegals, internships and work experience.
Access to the legal profession
The report calls for more non-graduate routes to qualification as a solicitor or barrister to be developed, and advises the regulators to ensure that opportunities for new routes to qualification are not being unnecessarily thwarted. In particular the report supports further development of the apprenticeship route to qualification and in general promotes greater integration of classroom and workplace learning.
Better information for prospective applicants about ways of qualifying as a legal services provider and the challenges of access to the professions of barrister and solicitor are also called for.
The report urges the regulators to collaborate in setting outcomes for education and training to ensure equivalence of baseline standards and to clarify systems for accreditation of prior learning and transfer between professional routes to ensure that these do not create unnecessary barriers to progression. The report also advises the regulators to remove requirements that unduly restrict the development of innovative and flexible pathways to qualification.
The full report can be accessed at letr.org.uk.
Professor Jenny Hamilton