Sunday, November 21, 2010

Legal Regulators To Investigate Legal Education and Training--So What?


(thanks to starpulse.com)
Legal Futures reports that the three main legal regulators--Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board, ILEX Professional Standards--are to "review" legal education and training. The aim is to calibrate legal education against the objectives in the Legal Services Act.

All in all, a laudable initiative.

I just wish that was all there was to it. I recently went to a symposium on the teaching of legal ethics in the UK where a disturbing subtext ran throughout. It is that law schools are producing too many law graduates for the legal services market. Both the Law Society and the Bar Council have been assiduously promoting this view.

Let me state my position: it's pernicious. The reasoning isn't difficult. In a variety of ways the legal profession has desperately clung to the idea of enforced closure as a way of maintaining its privileges. These having come under attack, rightly so, through the LSA and the enlightened oversight of the Legal Services Board, are no longer sustainable.

So, who else can be assigned the blame for the woes of the profession? The law schools are next on the list.

Law schools are on the whole part of the university system and have a range of values and ideals to pursue. But they aren't the servants of the legal profession. That is only one of their stakeholders.

In fact if the legal profession and its bodies engaged more fully with the academy we could have a real dialogue instead of one based on "evidence-lite soundbites" by profession leaders. The UK legal profession falls behind the US in this regard.

The academy doesn't produce too many graduates: the market isn't sufficiently liberalized to take them. Despite that, I think the regulators' review has the potential to engage all those concerned in legal education and the profession in a serious, thoroughgoing, rational investigation and debate.

At least I hope so.
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