This morning’s seminar on reforming legal education and training, hosted by Westminster Legal Policy Forum, provided a timely opportunity to reflect on the progress so far of the Legal Education & Training Review (LETR).
The lead for the LETR, Professor Julian Webb, rightly reminded us that the function of the Review is to address the question of how best to regulate legal education and training – specifically, the scope, reach and proportionality of that regulation. He said that, so far, responses to the LETR discussion papers had reflected vested interests, and had demonstrated limited consensus and offered little in the way of alternative vision.
If we are to make the most of the opportunity presented by the Legal Education and Training Review, we need to be clear about the background against which it is conducting its work. We also need to acknowledge the nature of some of the fundamental issues which must be addressed if the review is to be effective and command respect for its conclusions and recommendations.
Last month I took part in the UCL/LexisNexis Legal Education Debate on whether lawyers need to be scholars. I was privileged to be one of the panellists, but found myself in some hot water for suggesting that, viewed in its entirety, the current framework for the education and development of practising lawyers was not ‘fit for purpose’. Let me explain why I reached that conclusion.
We are now into a period of outcomes focused regulation. While in favour of OFR in principle (I quite like the idea of lawyers being trusted to do the right thing), there are still some practical challenges to be overcome – in particular being able to identify what the right outcome is. Be that as it may, my starting point on education and training was less about the question for debate (do lawyers need to be scholars?) and rather more about the outcome: do we produce lawyers who are fit for practice? My view on that, regrettably, is that we don’t produce enough.