Lord Chief Justice: It’s essential that quality of legal education and training is not ‘diluted’ with any reforms

Speech highlights key role of law schools

In what appears to be a veiled reference to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) plans to scrap traditional routes to qualification, the head of the judiciary in England and Wales has emphasised the importance of a broad-based legal education. He said:

At a time when the professions are, once again, reviewing the approach to be taken to legal education and training, it is absolutely essential that nothing is done to dilute the quality of a very broadly based legal education and law schools as the centres of excellence, not mere training grounds for the profession.

In a speech delivered at Aston University on how English commercial law can stay pre-eminent internationally, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd argued that law schools play a critical role because judges of the future “need to be at the forefront of change” and this “must begin at law school”.

He said that law students should be given “the best possible legal education so that they enter the profession with a sound grounding in the law and its practical application, as well as the ethical responsibilities of lawyers.”

Law students will be disheartened to hear that our top judge also really believes in “procedure”. He continued:

One of the real problems of English law schools is they do not teach procedure … It is a fundamental problem in the development of legal education and quite a lot of the development of our law is that people do not understand the significance of procedure. They are not therefore prepared to be innovative.

The Lord Chief Justice may, however, approve of the focus on work placements which the SRA reforms contain; his speech stressed the need to increase the quality in teaching law “as an academic subject and as a practical subject… I would hope that one way in which new lawyers can gain such early exposure is through the development of greater and closer links between universities, law firms and commercial businesses.”

The Lord Chief Justice was delivering his speech in memory of Professor Jill Poole, a commercial law expert and author of a text book on contract law which made it to its 11th edition, who died last year.

Read The Lord Chief Justice’s speech in full below:

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8 Comments

Never fear Anon of 7 is here.

It’s OK. This is is good Latvka. Someone made the point earlier that a law degree does not necessitate a career in law. Procedure is best learnt on the job, as any practitioner will tell you, as there are tricks in any trade

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Anonymous

“it is absolutely essential that nothing is done to dilute the quality of a very broadly based legal education and law schools as the centres of excellence, not mere training grounds for the profession”

Something tells me that Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd hasn’t set foot in a law school for many years.

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NCTrainee

Right, the LPC doesn’t add to your legal education in any meaningful way proportionate to its cost and length. It could easily be replaced with a few videos, a textbook, or some PSC type sessions covering the most fundamental points. I fact, the PSC covers all the professional conduct points anyway. You need to be aware of the CPR for your disputes seat. You may need to be aware of the basics of conveyancing, company procedure, and/or criminal stuff depending on your practice area. Electives are a pointless money grabber

But You certainly don’t need to be examined on it all. The whole LPC could quite easily be distilled into a day or two’s worth of the aforementioned (sorry) media/learning formats.

In short, that the super exam will replace the LPC is if no concern – the LPC barely matters.

Is it concerning that the GDL/LLB will be replaced by the super exam? Considering that you can get LLBs from some pretty terrible unis, including a 2 year LLB at ULaw, and that most GDL students do their conversion at such questionable institutions (through no fault of the students, who face precious little choice when it comes to GDL courses offered by really top unis), I find myself coming to the unexpected conclusion that a super exam will not harm standards. As long as it’s standard doesn’t drop below the standards of the LPC/GDL providers that is (which would be pretty hard). If the standard is that bad, law degrees will become more sought after and more popular. No big deal.

The super exam has the added benefit of letting intelligent and experienced professionals enter the profession more easily. I have peers who have done some truly interesting legal work since leaving uni (law degree) – e.g. some pretty complex stuff abroad far above the sort of work a trainee will see.Some are now stuck career wise because they can’t progress any higher without the LPC but don’t want to take a whole year off the officially learn what they already know and practice day to day. These are intelligent people who will now be able to take a couple/few months off, learn the material for the super exam (or the bits replacing the LPC, assuming you don’t have to do it all if you’ve done a law degree already), and be ready for a very good TC. All without having to take a year out, with the expense and loss of earnings that it entails.

All this, however, is predicated on the SRA going about this process sensibly – e.g. Reducing requirements for people with law degrees so they don’t have to swat up again after finals!) – and I don’t hold out much hope to that effect…

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NCTrainee

Just read the proposal and seen that students with a law degree get no exemption from any stage of the course.

Farcical is the only way to describe this. 1st from Oxford? We don’t care, learn it again a few months later for another test. Alternatively, the super exam content that covers law degree content could be of a very low level (which is more likely given that the exam will involve no written answers or essays), leading to the conclusion that legal education will be inadequate. As I said above, the SRA has already completely ballsed up any chance of this going smoothly. Congrats.

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Really? What's the problem?

SQE provides one standard and decreases costs, thereby improving accessibility to increase competition and drive up standards across the profession.

If lawyers are lacking procedural knowledge, here is the opportunity for improvement on that front!?

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