Training for Tomorrow – Proposals for New Reform in the Legal Profession are Underway

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published last week proposals for radical and wide-ranging changes to legal education and training in England and Wales.

Its policy statement, Training for Tomorrow, sets out a comprehensive programme of proposals designed to produce a strong and effective system of legal education and training to ensure the provision of legal services of the highest possible quality. The proposals include:

  • Focusing on the competencies required for solicitors at the point of qualification, rather than on a formal process of how to get there. This will permit rigorous assessment at that stage, enable much greater flexibility in the way in which solicitors can qualify, and support innovation by legal education providers and employers. This will help ensure that high quality individuals have the opportunity to become solicitors regardless of their background
  • Ending the current hours-based approach to post-qualification training (CPD) and introducing a system which focuses on the effectiveness of that training. It would place responsibility on individuals, and the organisations in which they work, for tailoring professional development to reflect their particular needs and circumstances with more of a focus on the role of the entity and its obligation to ensure proper training for all staff – whether solicitors or not
  • Streamlining the education and training system by stripping away technical regulations which are not necessary to assure the quality of education and training. For example, no longer requiring students to enrol with the SRA before they commence the Legal Practice Course

The SRA stated that while the statement of skills, knowledge and attributes, the new post-qualification training system, and the streamlining of regulations, will be finalised during 2014, the implementation of the full programme of reform will take several years to complete.

We have already explained how we intend to make sure we specify the right outcomes through our work to develop a competence framework. Putting in place a robust competence framework will enable us to pull back from specifying the detail of how solicitors should qualify and to concentrate instead on ensuring there is robust assessment of the required knowledge skills and attributes before qualification. Central to our strategy is an enhanced focus on assessment, therefore.

The SRA will be particularly mindful of the suggestions in the LETR report that robust systems for standardising the assessment of outcomes should be developed and that the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) and the Bar Practitioners’ Training Course demonstrate that outcomes can be satisfied by a rigorous assessment-based process.