So what do you as law students know about the the LETR?
OK so the biggest review of legal education since Ormrod is underway. Carried out collaboratively by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Bar Standards Board (BSB) and ILEX Professional Standards, the review covers all stages of legal education, both academic and vocational.
Here’s the statement of intent from LETR:
It constitutes a fundamental, evidence-based review of education and training requirements across regulated and non-regulated legal services in England and Wales. The legal services sector is experiencing an unprecedented degree of change. LETR is required to ensure that the future system of legal education and training will be effective and efficient in preparing legal service providers to meet the needs of consumers.
I attended the launch of Nottingham Law School’s Centre for Legal Education on 3rd May – a bit of a blast from the past for me, as I completed my GDL there some years ago and haven’t been back since! This event was focused around the LETR, with a panel discussion in the morning followed by the LETR team filling us in on the schedule of the review that afternoon. This took the format of a form, and included some small group discussion work – designed to get us talking about the big issues.
The panel consisted of David Urpeth (Partner at Irwin Mitchell), Nazmin Aktar (young barrister & legal blogger), event founders Rebecca Huxley-Binns and Gary Lee Walters, alongside Baishali Majumdar (trainee solicitor). The panel were chaired by Baroness Deech.
Discussion was wide-ranging and sought to debate legal education chronologically – kicking off with discussion around the importance of A-level law and heading through to the place of CPD.
Debate around academic law centred about the curriculum itself – are the core legal subjects still necessary? Are they stifling creativity? Is this approach too restrictive when so many doing the law degree (around 50%) will not necessarily continue to the vocational stage? Is there value in studying law as an academic subject, should the law degree include more professional skills?
David Urpeth responded to a question from City’s own Amanda Fancourt about what current LPC graduates are lacking and his response was centred around commercial awareness. Urpeth illustrated this by describing the talented individuals who walk into the firm with such a lack of understanding of business – wanting to help people but with no consideration for business constraints and profit margins.
When asked about whether this was really the job of the law schools, Urpeth suggested that actually they would be more than happy to take trainees on direct from sixth form and train them exactly how they wanted them for Irwin Mitchell [IM clones?].
He was however was clear to state that this might hinder those trainees from moving law firms later in their career.
Nazmin and Baishali had much of interest to share; the difficulty in securing legal experience a source of much concern and questions raised as to whether this opportunity should be embedded in every law degree whether as practical pro bono or via clinical legal education.
The distinct separateness of the academic and vocational stages was also raised as an issue – Nazmin feeling that as soon as you commence BPTC you’re told to forget everything you’d spent the last 3 years learning.She also noted how the practical skills you learnt often felt artificial.
The viability of extended common training for both branches of legal training was also up for debate; Baroness Deech spoke enthusiastically about a more flexible system (fused?) that didn’t require students to choose between the solicitor and barrister path so early on. There is a sense that universities and law schools should have a responsibility to help students make these choices.
So what do you think? Should the law degree be less prescriptive? Should the path through vocational training be more flexible? Is law as an academic subject important? Contribute to this vital review by completing the survey now!