First a little background: the Legal Education and Training Review is a joint project between the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Institute of Legal Executives Professional Standards (IPS). As its name suggests, the findings of the research generated by this review will have far-reaching implications on the nature of future legal education and training. The research team are essentially looking at whether the spectrum of legal education and training in the UK is fit for purpose. It has been widely reported to be the most wide-ranging review of legal education since the Ormrod Report in 1971. Final recommendations will be published in December 2012. Research for the Review is being led by Professor Julian Webb of Warwick University.
UCL hosted a LexisNexis-sponsored debate on 11th October 2011 'Do Lawyers Need to be Scholars?' with a view to kick-starting discussion around the Review. Chaired by Professor Dame Hazel Genn DBE QC, Dean of UCL Faculty of Laws, the panel was more weighted on the academic side, though their views were far from uniform. It included:
David Bickerton (Managing Partner, Clifford Chance)
Rebecca Huxley-Binns (NTU and winner of Law Teacher of the Year 2010)
Professor Stephen Mayson (Director of Legal Services Policy Institute, College of Law)
Professor Richard Moorhead (Cardiff Law School)
Professor Philippe Sands QC (UCL Faculty of Laws/ Matrix Chambers)
Each panel member got 5 minutes to state their position before some debate amongst themselves and then a final passing over to the audience. Sir Mark Potter who chairs the LETR Panel also said a few words around the review, although he was treading carefully so as to convince us no preconceptions were driving the review.
Key areas of discussion centred around the standard of the undergraduate law degree, with Phillippe Sands kicking off with a controversial stance, declaring his one regret in life was studying law and not doing something else first, before going to study law as a graduate. His assertion centring around the belief that studying law as an undergraduate in this country is stifling, closing your mind down to thinking in a particular way, at the very point when it should be opening up in new ways.