Nottingham Law School plots return to eminence in training marketplace

ANALYSIS: The appointment of Lovells’ Keith Gaines as dean signals Nottingham’s intent to compete with BPP and College of Law


Nottingham Law School plots return to eminence in training marketplaceNottingham Law School (NLS) has made its latest move to regain premier status, bagging Keith Gaines, a litigation partner at City giant Lovells, as the schools new dean.

Gaines will join the school in May and is charged with
leading NLSs LPC, under-graduate and postgraduate programmes, and with building the law schools research profile.

But as the schools senior pro vice-chancellor Professor Peter Jones explains, Gainess hire also means getting back into London and doing it with a City firm and is the latest blow delivered in the fightback against the College of Law and BPP Law School.

Gaines told Lawyer 2B that a priority in his new role will be winning back top 10 firms, most of which send their trainees to the College of Law or BPP including Lovells, which sends it trainees to BPP.

We see an opportunity to get into their marketplace, Gaines said. Were not [in London] with someone like Kaplan to just sit back and say, everythings hunky-dory in the marketplace.

What Gaines is referring to is NLSs first significant gambit in the war against BPP and the College of Law its plan for a new London branch with US professional training giant Kaplan, as first reported on www.the lawyer.com (22
June 2006). Struck in June, the deal seeks to combine NLSs legal expertise with Kaplans powerful chequebook. It will welcome its first tranche of students in September this year.

As well as breaking the BPP/College of Law stranglehold, Gaines added that he will also focus on attracting other top 50 firms and premier boutiques, and on forming closer ties with the in-house legal teams of the FTSE250 (the 250 largest companies in the UK).

Jones sums it up when he says that NLS sees a bigger world than just eight to 10 law firms who have signed up for LPC courses. But would they like them as clients? You betcha.
For the longer term, NLSs ambition is to prepare its graduates for the new kind of legal world resulting from the protracted training framework review and Legal Services Bill. This involves teaching not only legal knowledge and skills, but also business acumen.

More fundamentally, however, Jones says he wants NLS to offer a flexibility and fluidity of career choices and career structures in other words, to do more than simply turn out lawyers for law firms. Instead, he envisages a new kind of dynamic, multipurpose alumni, as well equipped for the corporate boardroom as for life in a law firm.

Jones explains that, as well as the changing legal world, the scheme is also a response to the increase in tuition fees. When doing a law degree costs up to 10,000 a year, he says, its just not good enough to be teaching law as a liberal arts degree any more. Students want us to demonstrate value for money.

To teach its law students business know-how, Jones says he will be working closely with new head of the Nottingham Trent University business school Babark Yazdani. He also plans to utilise Nottingham Trents international links more, as well as those of Kaplan.

However, the question on every sceptics lips is whether the marriage with Kaplan will even survive that long. After all, the venture is not the first time that NLS has launched a London branch via a tie-up with a big training company.

In 1994 the school opened in London with a name then little-known in legal circles. That name was BPP
Professional Education. Fast forward three years and BPP had poached enough staff and expertise to gain Law Society accreditation, dump NLS and run the courses on its own. And while NLS licked its wounds, BPP stole its limelight.

But Jones says NLS will not fall for the same trick twice. I structured the deal with Kaplan I didnt structure the deal with BPP, he says. And if Kaplan didnt have the same long-term vision as us, we wouldnt have struck the deal.