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Now for the real thing

20 October 08

Firm policy proposals for the future of legal education and training are about to be unveiled, following the Society's two year long review

by Liz Campbell

There must be something about the autumnal air which sets the creative juices flowing and breeds consultation fever in education and training. It was November 2006 when the Education and Training Committee of the Society launched its major consultation into the future shape of education and training.

At that time, the Society took a radical new approach, with the Education and Training Committee deliberately choosing not to recommend a completed policy to the profession for endorsement, but to float a variety of suggestions for comment. The level of engagement with that process was unprecedented and the facts speak for themselves. It has been well documented that we received over 900 responses, making the project the largest research and evidence gathering exercise ever undertaken by the Society.

Two years on, and with a lot of hard work in the intervening period, including the Discussing the Detail interim consultation in February 2008, we are lighting this year’s touch paper in preparation for further consultation… and this time, we are inviting comment on policy proposals.

The final step in the journey towards a revised education and training system for Scottish solicitors will be taken in mid-November with the launch of The Way Forward, a consultation setting out proposals for the future structure and content of that system. With proposals covering the spectrum of education and training from the foundation stage of professional legal education (current LLB), through vocational and work-based training and on into continuing professional development, there is something in the paper to excite the interest of all members of the profession.

Top consultant

The Education and Training Committee has been keen to react to comments raised in Discussing the Detail, and in order to incorporate response to that feedback and to bring the strands of work together, we have retained the services of a respected consultant in the field.

Melissa Hardee, of Hardee Consulting, has a long history of involvement with professional education and training, having previously been the partner responsible for knowledge management, training and development, and quality with CMS Cameron McKenna, followed by four years as the course director of the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at City Law School (previously Inns of Court School of Law), City University. Melissa has also worked with the Law Society of England & Wales and the Solicitors Regulation Authority on a variety of education and training issues, and has chaired the City of London Law Society, the UK Legal Education and Training Group and the Association of LPC Providers.

Melissa comments: “The challenges facing the legal profession in Scotland at the moment are not dissimilar to those facing the profession in England & Wales, particularly in the post-Clementi world of what is, effectively, a liberalisation of legal services. Legal education and training is a key issue, which not everyone on either side of the border has realised.

“Legal education and training systems for the brave new world of legal services are going to have to be robust, they are going to have to assure standards and quality to the outside world, but at the same time they are going to have to be flexible – a bit like buildings in earthquake zones that move and don’t break – in order to be able to meet what are going to be unanticipated demands on the system as legal service practice moves and shifts its foundations.

“The Law Society of Scotland has taken the sensible, although ambitious, approach of reviewing the whole of the legal education and training contiunuum for solicitors at the same time. It is ambitious in the sense that there may not be proposals formed on every point at this stage. It has been sensible, however, in that, given the immediacy (Scotland will have alternative business structures before they exist in England & Wales), it is carrying out the consultation on the system as a whole so as to harness the entire profession’s expertise and views, as well as those of the educational institutions which are also key in this, in order to obtain a coherent overview. That will enable the Society to lay at least the foundations, and actually start construction in many areas, of Scotland’s new education and training system for this rather unknown, but exciting, future.

“Scotland has always had a reputation for excellence in education at all levels and it is a privilege to be involved in helping to produce a consultation exercise, to which I hope everyone who is involved in and relies upon the Scottish legal education and training system will wish to contribute. The Society has listened to the views that have been expressed in the prior consultations, and the new consultation paper reflects a regulator who is listening to the stakeholders to find feasible and balanced ways forward.”

Please join in

The Education and Training Committee shares Melissa’s views about the importance of this process. As we will say in The Way Forward paper, the quality of, and confidence in, a profession is underpinned by the quality and rigour of the education and training which leads to entry to that profession. This consultation represents the final stage in a detailed review process. It is vital that as wide an involvement as possible is achieved in responding to the changes proposed. That means we want you to give us your views.

During the consultation period, we will be arranging meetings and events to discuss the proposals, and to provide an opportunity for questions to be addressed to the Education and Training Committee and to others who have been involved. Further publicity will follow and we urge you to join in our enthusiasm for what we are aiming to achieve, by sparing some time to engage in this process.

As has been the case throughout the process, regular updates will appear on the website (www.lawscot. org.uk/training/consult). Constructive views and feedback are positively encouraged to lizcampbell@ lawscot.org.uk

Liz Campbell, Director (Education and Training)

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