Our day at the Legal Education Research Network (LERN) conference

The future of legal education conference 2017

The Research and Analysis team were invited to present at the LERN conference organised by Dr. Emma Jones of the Open University in Milton Keynes. It was a great opportunity to talk about some of our recent work and hear about what others are working on in the world of legal education. 

It was a lively programme ranging from “Perspectives on legal education in prisons” to “Life that can withstand death – an engagement with Hegel’s Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit” and how it can apply to stages of student learning from consciousness to knowledge. 

Are law clinics the future of legal education? 

One of the sessions focused on partnerships between university law clinics and the Citizens Advice Bureau. These schemes aim to deliver legal advice to those who cannot afford to pay for legal services. They also provide valuable client-facing experience for would-be solicitors. Our proposed reforms such as allowing solicitors to work in unregulated firms and reforms to private indemnity insurance will remove barriers preventing more universities from entering similar partnerships and increasing access to legal services. We spoke about best practice in standard setting and how we will use this when devising the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). 

Standard setting and the SQE

We had a great opportunity to run a workshop on best practice in assessment standard setting and how it will be used in the SQE. We discussed key concepts such as validity and reliability and different types of standards. We also reviewed different methods used to set accurate and fair standards and measures to quality assure assessment and reduce any assessor biases. 

Survive and thrive with the SQE 

Throughout all the sessions there was much debate about the SQE. While some attendees are sceptical that the SQE will improve on the current system, others were excited about the opportunities it creates. In his Keynote speech: ‘Surviving and even thriving with the SQE’ Andy Unger of London Southbank University told of their collaboration with games designers to develop ‘World of Law Craft’ learning resources for both students and the local community. In the closing panel discussion, LERN Chair Patricia Leighton noted that while the SQE dominated much of the day, the 70 percent of students who do not enter the legal profession were missing from the debate. Law schools can now uncouple themselves from the prescribed foundations of legal knowledge and design courses that meet the needs of all their students. 

There are many opportunities for law schools to embrace innovative technology to deliver legal education. We were inspired by the case studies of law clinics delivering access to legal services to some of the most vulnerable people in their local communities. We hope that the SQE will continue to stimulate debate about the purpose of legal education and encourage more universities to consider implementing or expanding their law clinics to benefit their students and improve access to legal services.

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