Legal regulators launch joint review of education and training

The three biggest legal regulators in England and Wales are set to launch a full-scale review of legal education and training.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and the Institute of Legal Executives Professional Standards (IPS) announced details of the review earlier today (19 November).

The review, which is due to start in February 2011, comes amid mounting criticism of the disparity between the number of students entering the profession and the number of available positions – both with law firms and at the Bar.

The aim of the review is to ensure the ethical standards and levels of competence of those delivering legal services in regulated law firms are sufficient.

An external research team will be appointed to carry out the review, which will look at the educational requirements for entering the profession, the requirements for continuing education for practitioners – including Continuing Professional Development – and the requirements placed on the law schools and those delivering the education to individuals and entities.

The regulators also plan to look at the effects of the Legal Services Act on training and education, as well as the future of the legal market in the light of changing client demands and technological change. The review will also analyse the need to promote social mobility and diversity, as well as the need for continuing professional development.

Commenting on the review, SRA chief executive Antony Townsend (pictured) said: “Ensuring that solicitors and others delivering legal services are properly educated and trained is just as important as making sure that firms and individuals conduct their businesses properly. The two areas of regulatory work are complementary and interdependent.”

He added: “Much of the recent focus of regulatory activity has been on reforming the structures for regulating legal businesses. This review will ensure that serious thought, based on thorough research and comprehensive consultation with all interested parties, is now given to education and training.”

The news comes amid growing criticism of UK law schools for taking on too many aspiring lawyers with little prospect of finding a job.

Earlier this month Bar Council chairman Nicholas Green QC warned of growing concerns over the employment prospects for aspiring advocates completing their barrister training and said he had “real qualms” about a system of education that encourages Bar Professional Training Course providers to educate more and more law students.

There was also criticism from solicitors after it emerged that BPP Law School was set to open new branches in Cambridge, Newcastle and Liverpool next year.

Diane Lawson, the SRA’s interim head of education and training, said: “Although the proposed review is not a direct response to the criticism of law schools that has flared up in recent months, we concede that this review is well past its due date. It is a substantial undertaking, and we hope to be able to gain important policy impact within six to eight months of launching the review.”

For more, see: