SRA publishes findings on training review

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has released its long-awaited report on its controversial work based learning (WBL) pilot.

The report produced by Middlesex University and published this week found broadly in favour of the two-year pilot, which explored alternative qualification routes into the solicitors’ profession that do not require candidates to secure a training contract.

Though the report said that allowing paralegals to qualify as solicitors under this scheme would be “fairer”, it concluded that longer term and on a larger scale it was less feasible. This was due to a number of factors including the current economic climate and cost. Concerns were also highlighted about the creation of a two-tier system.

Dr Susan Bews, chair of the SRA’s Education and Training Committee, said: “The work will improve the rigour of our assessment processes, and has the potential to offer a wider range of trainees the opportunity to complete their training through alternative routes.”

The WBL scheme was initiated in September 2008 and saw 70 of the 79 candidates qualify as solicitors. The participants were either nominated by law firms that had already agreed to take them on for training as solicitors, or candidates who volunteered for the scheme and who were already employed in firms or in-house legal departments in legal roles which would not otherwise have led to qualification.

In both cases the candidates were assessed either internally by their employer or by an external provider against a set of eight learning outcomes involving practical legal experience.

The findings in the report will now be fed into the 2020 Legal Education Review launched by the SRA, Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Standards earlier this year.

Meanwhile, two further strands of the study, including a scheme being run by Northumbria University that combines the law degree, Legal Practice Course and training contract, are expected to be finalised in 2012.