At the end of the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) symposium yesterday, I got chatting with Linda Jotham, a senior lecturer at City Law School.
As I groaned about the difficulties facing the LETR panel in coming up with a new system of legal education that keeps everyone happy – we’d just sat through a debate featuring solicitors, barristers, legal executives and academics who could hardly agree on anything – Jotham surprised me.
She told me that the earlier discussion group she'd been part of had come up with a win-win solution (based on an idea mooted by LSE's Julia Black).
Here it is...
Make qualifying as a lawyer contingent on reaching a certain generic competency (which would be set at level six of the government’s national competency framework).
Bring in a clearly defined new title of "English and Welsh lawyer" – encompassing solicitors, barristers, legal executives and indeed paralegals who have reached level six of the framework.
Allow "English and Welsh lawyers" to reach level six by whatever route they please, be it the traditional LLB/GDL + LPC/BPTC, on the job apprenticeship training via the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX), a combination of both, or some new method that would allow for the growth in online education options.
All the old titles (i.e. solicitor, barristers etc.) and courses (LPC/BPTC etc.) would be preserved, but the market may reduce their relevance.
Drop training contracts and pupillages, replacing them with modules that lawyers must sit according to which areas they want to practise in.