Education revolution: what to do next?

The way law students learn and progress through the junior ranks of firms and chambers might be about to change forever.

Ahead of what could be a revolution in legal education, Lawyer 2B asks three lawyers what their wishlist for the upcoming Legal Education and Training Review, touted as the most important review of legal education for decades.

First up is Melissa Hardee, education consultant and former CMS Cameron McKenna partner and Legal Practice Course tutor at City University’s Inns of Court School of Law.

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She writes about what she would like to see the review do here:

“No tinkering simply to justify having done the review, and no change for change’s sake. If it’s not broken, why fix it – or, as the BSB has put it more aptly, if it’s not broken, why break it? Many employers would say the current system is turning out excellent solicitors, barristers and legal executives.

“So, what I would hope the review will do is determine the extent to which the current systems for qualification as solicitor, barrister and legal executive do or do not meet the objectives, rather than proceed on an assumption that all systems have failed. It’s important, after all, to remember how the review arose.

“No hysterical response to the undeniable bottleneck for training contracts and pupillages. This issue has not been addressed properly to date: there have been overwrought statements that the bottleneck is the fault of the professions in not offering more training contracts or pupillages. This completely misunderstands that the professions work as businesses and are entitled to resource their businesses according to their business needs.

“The question which should be asked is why are there are so many graduates coming through with unrealistic expectations of their career chances? The cause of the over-supply needs to be addressed, which has to do with students choosing to take law degrees or graduate diploma in law courses without being properly informed about their prospects for careers.

“An analysis which will provide the different stakeholders with an understanding of each other’s concerns. What currently happens is that the profession feels frustration that those on the education side don’t understand, or even want to know about, their needs; those in education feel that, if they give an inch, the profession will take a mile and start dictating to the law schools; those in regulation believe that the motives of those in business are not be trusted.

“As someone who has had experience in each camp, I believe an exposition from the review team which enlightens profession, education and regulator about each other, and which enables them to understand their differences would alone go a long way to improving the legal education and training system.”

Read more expert comment on the legal education review next week on Lawyer 2B.