The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) has published a pre-report discussion paper claiming that English legal education is "not fit for purpose".

The LETR is a monstrous hydra combining the SRA, Bar Standards Board and ILEX. It's been running since June 2011 but is rapidly approaching its climax, with the final report due to be delivered in December. This week's discussion paper fired a warning that its recomendations for legal educators may not make for pretty reading.

In short, it's a response to the change in the legal market from the traditional model of a Victorian sweatshop to a modern, commoditised, private-equity led paradigm where paralegals do all the work. In this brave new world, knowing about Donoghue v Stevenson is less important than client care and "people skills". According to the paper (para 134) "Evidence to date...suggests that there are gaps...in core knowledge and commercial skills. More fundamental gaps have been highlighted as regards client relations/communication skills, ethical awareness and organisational skills. If this is correct we suggest it is difficult to see that the system as a whole is fit for its purposes". 
 

  Legal education. A metaphorical rendering.


The whole system comes under scrutiny. There's a discussion of the merits of the LLB as opposed to the GDL, including the shocking revelation that "employers will pursue a borderline 2:1/2:2 in (say) humanities from Oxbridge with the GDL in preference to a 1st Class LLB from a less well known institution". And much pondering over whether to combine artificial vocational training with on-the-job learning, as accountants do. The report suggests the market won't return to (already low) 2010 levels of employment until 2018, and fails to address the issue of law schools piping out twice as many LPC grads as there are training places.

Check out the full discussion paper here, but be warned that its 50 pages are pretty heavy going, rammed with management tosh like "stakeholders" and "symbiotic relationships". December can't come soon enough.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 31 August 12 10:57

Shock horror. A system that allows someone to be a solicitor after a one year conversion course isn't fit for purpose. Maybe English lawyers should have law degrees - crazy I know.

FrankW 31 August 12 11:01

Balls. There's clearly absolutely no need for lawyers to have an LLB. As any major firm's recruitment stats show.

Anonymous 31 August 12 11:12

A major firms recruitment is surely an indicator of attrition not a gauge of quality of knowledge. The report on the other hand...

Roll On Friday 31 August 12 11:34

Frank is right, of course. As a firm we have typically taken on more non-law grads than law grads in recent years. The applicants are often more rounded, and perhaps more likely to be more people-people too, if that's what you go for.

Also, I would suggest that the learned LETR is referring more to High Street firms in it criticisms than the most of the mid-tier and above. Obviously I am not going to waste my time reading it to find out.

Anonymous 31 August 12 12:04

annonymous user of 9:57: the system does not allow someone to be a solicitor after a one year conversion course. You do have to do the LPC and a training contract after the GDL - and have done a recognised undergraduate degree before the GDL. Perhaps you have heard of one Alfred Denning - he didn't have a law degree either.

Anonymous 31 August 12 12:22

"Perhaps you have heard of one Alfred Denning - he didn't have a law degree either."

And it showed.

Anonymous 31 August 12 12:50

Its worth remembering that nobody has suggested that it is not possible to be a good lawyer without a law degree.

I am of course familiar with the English training system and would be surprised if someone could demonstrate how a first class honours in Home Economics, Physics or Geography is more pertinent to law than law. The LPC might be a useful practical course and a traineeship great exercise in completing proforma precedents or compiling document bibles, but I’m not sure it is a substitute for a good grasp of the fundaments of law. Why not follow the Scottish or Canadian model where the study of law is compulsory.

P.s. Alfred Denning studied Jurisprudence at Magdalen. I’d say that counts.

Anonymous 31 August 12 12:56

Delve deeper and you will see that Denning didn't have a degree in law from Oxford. He read jurisprudence at Oxford for less than 9 months (shorter than your present day GDL), having previously got a degree in Mathematics. He then specifically chose not to do the BCL at Oxford.

Arguably the foremost judge of the 20th century - so I would submit his lack of degree did not quite hold him back.

FrankW 31 August 12 13:07

"The LPC might be a useful practical course"

It's not. It's widely derided as pointless. Most firms would rather get their trainees in a year earlier, regardless of their undergrad degrees. If you're working in, say, the City, doing a corporate sort of job, I don't reckon it's necessary to have studied any law at all.

(But I only lasted five years in pp, so perhaps not the best example).

Anonymous 31 August 12 14:39


On the anon user at 1156: I'm not sure I would equate the GDL and jurisprudence at Oxford. In any event the Wikipeadia entry is a little misleading. “Digging deeper” as you put it reveals that Lord Denning had a 'Bachelor of Arts in the Final Honour School of Jurisprudence' - one of the most intensive law degrees in the UK. This misses the point however. Bright people may well still make good lawyers without a law degree and glean everything they need to know about law from experience when working, but that does not negate the fact that a lawyer having a more comprehensive understanding of law before embarking on a career in it must be a good thing for the profession and indeed for the end user. I wouldn’t want to be treated by a doctor who hadn’t studied medicine or, more correctly, had converted from English literature to medicine in a year.


On Frank’s comment, I admit I was being kind about the LPC. I’ve heard it’s a waste of time. I think you’re right. You probably don’t need to have a law degree to work in the City. I worked their in a former life and new some excellent lawyers who did not have law degrees. What is problematic however s that when people don’t question (or rather don’t know to question because they don’t have knowledge of the fundamentals) legal errors go unnoticed. This is particularly apparent when you look at some of the documents of ‘sausage factory’ law firms which train lawyers to rely on precedent and to ask others for answers rather than apply (what should be) their discipline.

Anonymous 31 August 12 15:15

re teh above - please excuse the “their” and “new” .Typing without thinking (with a hangover).

Anonymous 31 August 12 16:00

Surely the implicit point being made IS that those with law degrees make better lawyers than those with GDLs, otherwise this entire discussion is somewhat meaningless.

I agree that the LPC is not a substitute for a good grasp of the fundamentals of law - nor is it meant to be (hence you get your certificate of completion of the academic stage of training before you start the LPC - and the LPC comprises part of your vocational training). Nor is there a suggestion that other degrees are more pertinent to law than law themselves. And I perfectly agree that one should follow the Scottish or Canadian model where the study of law is compulsory. The study of law is in fact compulsory in the English system, either by way of a law degree or a GDL. The GDL mandatorily covers at least all compulsory subjects of English law that one is required to cover by way of an English law degree - hence that is where one gets a grasp of the fundamentals of law. This covers Contract, Tort, Equity & Trusts, Constitutional, Administrative & Human Rights, Real Estate, Criminal and EC Law. I am unaware of any law firms complaining that trainees/lawyers who came up via the GDL route were in any way deficient compared to those with law degrees. The first poster in this thread seems to take a different view.

Anonymous 31 August 12 20:51

'LETRA' [sic] doesn't actually say that anywhere in the paper. Good try though...

Anonymous 31 August 12 21:17

@anonymous 09.57

That's a rather antiquated criticism. The article seems to suggest that legal education isn't up to scratch - so that includes the LLB as well as the GDL.

Anonymous 03 September 12 12:22

I'd be in favour of dropping the LPC but having a two-year GDL.

I don't think the GDL gives people enough knowledge of technical law. I am at a MC firm and am sometimes surprised at the lack of knowledge of the GDLers.

Anonymous 03 September 12 18:30

"What is problematic however s that when people don’t question (or rather don’t know to question because they don’t have knowledge of the fundamentals) legal errors go unnoticed. This is particularly apparent when you look at some of the documents of ‘sausage factory’ law firms which train lawyers to rely on precedent and to ask others for answers rather than apply (what should be) their discipline."

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The LPC is a lesson in precedent, procedure and form-filling - it certainly doesn't teach fundamentals.