Market slams Law Soc plans to abolish vocational training

Under radical proposals just passed by the Law Societys standards board, law students will no longer have to undertake vocational training or accredited courses in order to qualify as a lawyer.

Market slams Law Soc plans to abolish vocational training

  • Vocational training
    no longer needed to become a lawyer

  • Critics fear a slide
    in standards

  • Training Framework Review Group slammed for lack of consultation

  • Cost of courses
    could be slashed

    The proposals were submitted by the Training Framework Review Group (TFRG), which was established four years ago to bring flexibility to the qualification process, and in February they will go before the Law Societys full committee, after which they will go out to the profession for consultation.

    They have already been widely derided for their potential impact on standards as well as the cost and logistical difficulty of implementation and the failure of the 10-person TFRG to consult.

    The TFRG is itself split, with two members Melissa Hardee of the Inns of Court School of Law and Phil Knott of Nottingham Law School opposing the proposals.

    “To abandon the requirement of vocational training will disadvantage the very people we want to come into the profession,” said Hardee.

    In their joint minority report submitted to the Standards Board, the pair argued: “By having no prescription [to do law courses], students who are going to become solicitors are going to be at an immense disadvantage because of not knowing which will be the best way for them to spend their time and their money in order to achieve the outcome necessary to qualify as solicitors.”

    Although law students will continue to have the option of undertaking a law degree and the LPC, to qualify for the work-based training stage currently called the training contract the only requirements will be to have a degree (in any subject) and to sit and pass Law Society-accredited exams.

    How they get to the exam table either through studying entirely off campus or through one of many private providers likely to emerge from the changes will be down to individual students.

    The Training Framework Review (the review) sought to find “cheaper and quicker” routes to qualification, having criticised the existing regulations because they, “inhibit innovation and creativity”.

    Under the new scheme, students will be left with various options for their training. As well as simply studying from home with no access to libraries or tuition, they will still be able to opt for the existing route of either a law degree or the GDL, followed by the vocational year of training on the LPC.

    While the reviews aim of removing “unnecessary obstacles to qualification” have been supported almost universally, the latest proposals have been slammed in almost all quarters.

    David McIntosh, president of the City of London Law Society, accused the TFRG of pursuing the “blinkered agendas of people who should know better”.

    “Given the Law Society was slow to recognise the particular needs of City practices,” he argued, “why on earth are they now running the gauntlet of reducing standards?”

    College of Law chief executive Nigel Savage said: “Im the CEO [chief executive officer] of the biggest law school in the country and I only found out about these proposals four days before they went before the [Law Society] Standards Board. [Under the plans], it will take longer to become a Corgi-registered plumber than a lawyer.”

    Professor Alan Paterson, president of the Society of Legal Scholars, while welcoming the Law Societys commitment to increasing access, said: “These proposals appear to rely very heavily on assessments of work-based learning, which the Scottish experience suggests are logistically very difficult and expensive to implement.”

    Flexible providers of law courses, such as the Open University, which runs courses alongside the College of Law, is one group that is likely to benefit from the changes. Students will turn to them to provide support in preparation for their finals. Prices are significantly cheaper at the Open University than on full-time courses, costing just 1,500 a year compared with anything up to 9,000 for the full-time GDL or LPC.

    “The proposals present challenges and opportunities that will be fully discussed by the societys council,” said Janet Paraskeva, chief executive of the Law Society.