The LETR report has now been published.

JLD statement in response to the LETR report

The content of the LETR report has not come as a surprise to the JLD as most of the topics covered in the report have been considered and lobbied on by the JLD in the past few years. The LETR report itself comments that many of the themes addressed are not new. The issues, which have been high on the agenda of the JLD and which the LETR has reported on, are:

  • unpaid work
  • the bottleneck at the point of entry into the legal profession via training contracts
  • social mobility
  • lack of initial information about the likelihood of obtaining employment as a legal professional
  • paralegals who have been given false hope of training contracts and exploitation related to the same.

We are, however, appreciative that the LETR has highlighted the above matters and provided evidence to support the existence of the issues. It was interesting to note that solicitors were under-represented as a proportion of respondents relative to the profession, since the report was commissioned as a way of engaging with legal professionals and it was an opportunity to speak their minds.

The JLD welcomes the report’s recommendations to increase routes into the legal profession and to have a standard of competence established for entry into the profession. In addition, the JLD is keen to see equality and diversity information published by education institutions and employers. The JLD also welcomes the recognition in the report that key skills of employment in the profession, such as commercial awareness and communication, need to be addressed through education and training. We are pleased with the LETR’s suggestion to have a clearing house to advertise work experience, an advice shop to provide careers information, and a data archive to house diversity monitoring and evaluation of diversity initiatives.

The legal market is rapidly changing due to globalisation, consumer preferences and legislation. We agree with the LETR that they need to put in place a Legal Education Council as, after 70 years of debate in general on legal education and training, this has not been achieved. We also agree that the LETR should not conclude here, because a wealth of information has been provided that needs to be acted upon. It remains to be seen as to whether any change will be made.

The JLD shall continue to liaise with the regulators responsible for implementing changes to ensure that our members’ interests are fully represented.

Latest update: SRA announces proposals for radical reform of education and training

On 16 October 2013 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published proposals for radical and wide-ranging changes to legal education and training. Its policy statement, Training for Tomorrow, sets out a comprehensive programme of proposals designed to produce a strong and effective system of legal education and training to ensure the provision of legal services of the highest possible quality. The proposals will be subject to detailed consultation over the coming months.

They include:

  • Focusing on the competencies required for solicitors at the point of qualification, rather than on a formal process of how to get there. This will permit rigorous assessment at that stage, enable much greater flexibility in the way in which solicitors can qualify, and support innovation by legal education providers and employers. This will help ensure that high-quality individuals have the opportunity to become solicitors regardless of their background.
  • Ending the current hours-based approach to post-qualification training (CPD) and introducing a system that focuses on the effectiveness of that training. It would place responsibility on individuals, and the organisations in which they work, for tailoring professional development to reflect their particular needs and circumstances with more of a focus on the role of the entity and its obligation to ensure proper training for all staff - whether solicitors or not.
  • Streamlining the education and training system by stripping away technical regulations that are not necessary to assure the quality of education and training. For example, no longer requiring students to enrol with the SRA before they commence the Legal Practice Course.

The statement of skills, knowledge and attributes, the new post-qualification training system, and the streamlining of regulations, will be finalised during 2014, although implementation of the full programme of reform will take several years.

SRA director of Education and Training, Julie Brannan , said:

‘This is a radical programme. The new system will allow for more flexibility and reduce unnecessary regulation, but it will not be a ’soft’ option. On the contrary, it will bring to bear a greater focus on the quality and standards of those who we regulate to deliver legal services.

‘It will open up opportunities for a wider range of individuals to pursue a career as a solicitor and encourage others to innovate and reform some of the more traditional structures of the current legal education system. We will work closely with the other regulators of legal services to promote common approaches wherever these are appropriate.’

Martin Coleman, chair of the SRA Education and Training Committee , added:

’The individuals, businesses and other entities that the SRA regulates offer services that are of critical importance in upholding the rule of law; protecting the rights of individuals; ensuring the efficiency of commercial and financial transactions and underpinning the strength of UK professional services in the global marketplace. It is essential that these services are of the highest possible quality and this requires a strong and effective system of legal education and training.

‘While the current education and training system has served us well, technology, changing consumer demands and the regulatory system itself are reshaping the ways in which legal services are delivered. Legal education and training must adapt to reflect these wider changes. Our proposals are designed to make our education and training system ready for the world in which legal services are now provided.’

’The SRA is keen to encourage discussion with members of the profession and legal services providers, consumer organisations, education providers, students and other interested parties on the potential changes. A new microsite has been launched to facilitate debate.

‘There will also be a series of events around the country, so project team members can meet stakeholders and discuss views and opinions.’

Visit the SRA website for further information about the LETR

Background

The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) is a joint project of the:

  • Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
  • Bar Standards Board (BSB)
  • Institute of Legal Executives Professional Standards (IPS)

It is an evidence-based review of education and training requirements across regulated and non-regulated legal services in England and Wales and is set to be the largest review of its kind since 1971.

The review’s main focus is the format of education and training in legal services, but not the content. The review spans all aspects of legal education and training (LET), from entry to the profession to continuing professional development (CPD) and whether it is fit for purpose.

Further information about the LETR


Responding to the LETR discussion papers

The LETR has published three discussion papers, which the JLD has responded to:

Other responses

Read the Law Society response