News releases

Legal Education and Training Review Team publish Discussion Paper 2

Changes to the current system of legal education and training are likely to be required to ensure that legal professionals possess the necessary skills to practise in the future legal services market, the latest LETR Review discussion paper suggests.

The 50-page discussion paper, published by the Legal Education and Training Review research team, led by Professor Julian Webb, highlights key issues which the profession will need to address when considering changes.

The paper contends that legal education and training should set out to ensure that legal services providers possess core knowledge, communication, organisational and commercial skills. In addition, they must be able to demonstrate sound practical skills, and a commitment to high ethical standards.

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:

  • Evidence gathered to date indicates that there is too great a reliance on initial training to guarantee ongoing competence and quality.
  • There is a current lack of flexibility in training pathways, and more attention should be paid to actively designing qualifications and awards allowing for clear entry, exit and transfer points.
  • The advantages of setting standards independently of qualifications, clarifying the core common competences that should apply to all forms of regulated legal activity
  • There is a relative fragmentation of standards as well as the lack of a consistent training framework for paralegals. The paper asks for views on whether coordinated standards for this sector of the profession should be developed and brought within the Legal Services Act framework.
  • It argues that ethics and values should be at the core of training and regulation as they are integral to the concept of a regulated legal services provider.

The paper looks at the effect the new legal services market will have on legal education and training requirements. It says new business models will "disrupt some of the traditionally distinctive ways of working associated with particular titles" and organisations and individuals will have to show adaptability and a willingness to develop new skills-sets or extend existing ones, especially in terms of 'soft' client-facing skills, and commercial and business skills.

Prof Julian Webb said: "In producing this report, we have drawn on a wide range of evidence, including feedback from the international symposium held in Manchester. 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.

"We are keen to engage with all our stakeholders as we continue our research so that the final report is as fully informed as possible. We would, therefore, ask everyone to let us have their views and contributions by 23 October."

The paper is part of the research stage of the Legal Education and Training Review. The research team's final report will be submitted in late December 2012.

Download the discussion paper from the LETR website

The Legal Education and Training Review has been commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) , Bar Standards Board (BSB) and ILEX Professional Standards. More information about the Review is available from the LETR website.


Note to editors

The Executive Summary highlights four aims in producing the discussion paper:

  • To identify short-term future trends in the delivery of legal services and consider the implications for legal education and training (LET)
  • To summarise responses to Discussion Paper 01/2012, relate them to findings emerging from the research teams fieldwork, and identify key issues for the Review
  • To offer some initial indications of solutions under consideration and to highlight some of the relatively high level structural work the team is undertaking on the frameworks, standards and tools for regulating LET
  • To seek further information, evidence and views from stakeholders on a range of specific questions raised by the research team'[s work to date and on the future direction of LET  
Print page to PDF