The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) published its final report in June 2013. The Review was commissioned by the Bar Standards Board (BSB), ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) with the purpose of developing recommendations to ensure that:
- legal services providers have the necessary knowledge, skills and professional attributes to meet the needs of business, consumers and the public interest;
- legal education and training providers are supported by regulation in delivering training to a standard that ensures the competence of legal practitioners;
- employers have flexibility to develop their workforce to deliver a professional service to their clients.
The final report recognised that the current legal services and education training system provided a "good standard of education and training enabling the development of the core knowledge and skills needed for practice across the range of regulated professions". However, it identified a number of ways in which the system could be enhanced to ensure that it remains fit for purpose in the future. It found, for example, that the current system places too much reliance on initial qualification as a foundation for continuing competence and recommended that greater emphasis is placed on assuring the continuing competence of legal services providers. The report recommended a Continuing Professional Development model that requires "participants to plan, implement, evaluate and reflect annually on their training needs" and that "if a time requirement is not included, a robust approach to monitoring planning and performance must be developed to ensure appropriate activity is undertaken."
Both the BSB and the SRA have responded to the recommendations set out in the report.
The BSB confirmed that it will be putting a six point programme in place to:
- Establish a competency framework for barristers;
- Align the Bar Training Regulations to modern regulatory standards;
- Establish an outcomes-focussed approach to Continuing Professional Development;
- Share data to support the BSB's regulatory objectives in education and training;
- Improve access routes to the profession; and
- Collaborative development of Academic Stage regulation.
Click here to read the BSB press release.
The SRA also responded to the recommendations in its policy statement entitled "Training for Tomorrow". The SRA plans to consult on widespread changes to legal education and training. It says that these proposals will include:
- Moving from a system where the SRA prescribes the pathways to qualification to one in which it sets out skills, knowledge and attributes that a new solicitor must possess from day one and one which will allow much greater flexibility as to how those competencies are acquired;
- Ending the current "tick-box" approach to Continuing Professional Development and introducing a system under which it is the individual and their organisation's obligation to tailor professional development to reflect their particular needs and circumstances;
- Removing a number of technical regulations which require unnecessary SRA involvement in the detail of the education and training process.
Click here to read the SRA's policy statement.
We will be monitoring the progress of these potentially radical reforms to legal education and training over the coming months.