A flexible approach to training to become a lawyer is essential, but the highest standards of legal education and training must be preserved whatever changes are brought about, the Law Society has insisted.
In its response to the latest Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) discussion paper (02/2012), the Law Society reinforced its support for the existing training route, stating that the current paths to qualification serve as an effective way of enabling people to become solicitors within a relatively condensed period of time.
However, the Society backed the development and recognition of alternative routes, which can achieve the same standard for qualification. It also insisted that equality and diversity considerations must be given far greater consideration by the team appointed to undertake the research project.
Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said:
'Alternative routes of entry into the legal profession are essential in order to enable new entrants to gain qualification through a modularised and work-based learning approach, since the costs of education and training through graduate routes continue to rise. It is disappointing that the LETR team decided not to address equality, diversity and social mobility in this final discussion paper. These issues are central to any discussion around routes into the profession, and to any serious consideration of how to make legal education and training more accessible. Equality, diversity and social mobility are fundamental factors for all the options and recommendations and have informed the Law Society's response.'
'This does not however dilute the underlining priority - that required standards must be consistent across all routes to qualification.'
The Law Society also registered its disappointment that in considering all the stages of legal education and training - academic, vocational stages, work-based learning and post-qualification - the discussion paper gives little recognition to the wider regulatory context, including continuing professional development, compliance officers of legal practice (COLPs) and compliance officers for finance and administration (COFAs). The Society also supports a radically revised approach to CPD. This has an important role in supporting solicitors throughout their careers, addressing their evolving needs including specialisation or changes of career path.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board and Institute of Legal Executives Professional Services commissioned the review of legal education and training in June 2011. The review's final recommendations are expected to be published in early 2013. The review aims to take account of the future demands on legal services and the changing shape of the legal services market, so that the education and training system remains fit for purpose and appropriately flexible and responsive to such changes.
Once the review has made its recommendations the frontline regulators will decide which of these they will adopt. The Law Society will respond to any consultations on any proposed changes next year.
Notes to editors:
The Law Society paper was prepared in response to LETR Discussion Paper 02/2012.
View the consultation response
The Law Society engaged in a dialogue with its members to establish solicitors' own views on the education and training needs of the profession.
Alongside formal responses to the two discussion paper issued by the Review, the Society has engaged with the review process through ongoing relationships with the SRA, the Research Team and the co-Chairs of the Steering Panel. As part of this we have input our CPD policy to the SRA's review of CPD, which is in turn being fed in to the LETR.
The Law Society is the independent professional body, established for solicitors in 1825, that works globally to support and represent its members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law.
Contact: Catherine Reed, The Law Society
+44 (0)20 7320 5902