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

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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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