LETR questions fitness of legal education system

The Legal Education and Training (LETR) review team has questioned whether the current legal education system is fit for purpose, in a discussion paper published today.

The 50-page discussion paper, published by a LETR research team led by Warwick School of Law’s Professor Julian Webb, highlights key issues that the profession will need to address to ensure that legal professionals possess the necessary skills to practise in the future legal services market.

It says: “Evidence to date, discussed in this paper, suggests that there are gaps, for some purposes, in core knowledge and commercial skills. More fundamental gaps have been highlighted as regards client relations/communication skills, ethical awareness and organisational skills. If this is correct, it is difficult to see that the system as a whole is fit for purpose.”

The paper also highlights the following: there is too much reliance on initial training to guarantee ongoing competence and quality; there is a lack of flexibility in training; the advantages of setting standards independently of qualifications; and the need for ethics to be at the core of training and regulation.

It also points out that there is a relative fragmentation of standards as well as a lack of a consistent training framework for paralegals.

The paper calls for views on whether co-ordinated standards for paralegals should be developed and brought within the Legal Services Act framework.

The disruption caused by new business models, it claims, will require organisations and individuals to show adaptability and a willingness to develop new skills-sets, especially in terms of ‘soft’ client-facing skills and commercial and business skills.

In a statement, Professor Webb said: “The aim of the discussion paper is to inform our stakeholders of our progress, encourage debate, support the ongoing work of the researchers in identifying both the key issues relating to the possible reform of legal education and training in England and Wales, and to map out a range of possible solutions.”

The deadline for responses to the paper, which is available here, is 23 October 2012.

A previous discussion published in March asked for views on several radical options being considered by the team, including the abolition of the law degree and the replacement of pupillage and training contracts (13 March 2012).

The research team’s final report is expected in late December.