Budding lawyers should know what they're up against before embarking on a career in law
Potential entrants to the legal profession must be given more and better information before embarking on costly programmes of study, the Law Society has said in response to the final recommendations of a major review of legal education and training.
Responding today to the long-awaited Legal Education and Training Review, Law Society Chief Executive Desmond Hudson said there is an oversupply of graduates looking for careers in the law who are lacking specific skills required by law firms and are not sufficiently briefed about the realities of securing a job.
Desmond Hudson questioned whether law schools are doing enough to address quality assurance issues.
"The report contains a substantial number of detailed proposals, most of which are commendable and deserve the support of the profession. However a number of strategic themes deserve further debate and consideration.
"Educational establishments which are privileged to deliver qualifying law degrees are leaving quality assurance to the profession. The feedback we are getting from law firms shows that graduates are lacking the skills expected of them when they commence employment.”
He said that the majority of the report’s recommendations will command widespread support across the Profession and that the Society shared the concerns reflected about the need to avoid the Profession becoming more socially exclusive.
"Changes in Society and in particular the costs of third level education mean that it is evermore important that the profession reflects the Society from which it is drawn and serves whilst at the same time ensuring the maintenance of high standards. Additional pathways to qualification need not pose a risk to standards.”
Desmond Hudson expressed caution however, that the burden should be on the regulator to show why any new pathway to qualification should not be permitted.
"This potentially ignores the regulatory cost implications of a multiplication of pathways, which must be a consideration, if the profession is to remain competitive and the maximum number and range of firms are to be encouraged to train future practitioners.”
The Chief Executive welcomed the report’s endorsement of the need for greater focus on professional ethics in legal education and training.
The review of legal education and training was commissioned in June 2011 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board and Institute of Legal Executives Professional Services . The Review aims to take account of the future demands on legal services and the changing shape of the legal services market, so that the education and training system remains fit for purpose and appropriately flexible and responsive to such changes.
The Law Society agreed with the report’s recognition of the need for improvement in Continuing Professional Development regimes, recognising that the necessary improvements must be practical and effective for small practices as well as for large organisations.
Commenting on the report as a whole, Desmond Hudson said: "These recommendations are wide-ranging and merit a effective consultation by the regulators with the Profession. We will be maintaining our ongoing engagement with the SRA and other stakeholders as these recommendations are developed into regulatory proposals and we look forward to playing a leading role in these debates. We are anxious to ensuring that the practitioner perspective is central to the implementation of the recommendations. We will be consulting with the profession at every stage of the process.
"At a time when the entire profession is confronting unprecedented change and challenging markets , regulators must understand that the pace at which reform of Legal Education and Training can be accommodated by the profession is restricted. Clear and proportionate priorities must be set."
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