DWF, a predominantly northern law firm, has started a new entry track for lawyers via apprenticeship. It is a paralegal academy for school leavers run in conjunction with the Institute for Legal Executives (ILEX).
With the unbundling of legal services and the need for differentially qualified legal personnel, this move is symptomatic of the changes taking place in the profession and education. England and Wales offers multiple routes to qualification as a "legal professional". Note I didn't say lawyer.
It is no longer necessary to be a lawyer in the traditional sense to carry out legal services, even reserved (authorized) ones. So legal education is adapting to this new market. And this is even before the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board have done much of their legal education review. They are already being pre-empted.
We now enable people to become lawyers by stages if they want. It might be easier for someone out of school to take an apprenticeship route and qualify as a Legal Executive, and if they want they can convert those qualifications and their experience into a "full" lawyer qualification.
With the increased role played by legal process outsourcers, private education companies, legal services and their suppliers can be viewed on a spectrum from mass production to individual construction. This fits in with new ventures like Acculaw who are going to provide legal trainees on demand and other established companies like Axiom Legal. See my earlier post on these.
If you add in the tied training programmes that educational companies like BPP are engaged in as are the accountants who are buying entire degree courses at universities, we are seeing the increased commercialization of professional education that is moving away from the academy.
Is the academy becoming redundant? I don't think so but it has not worked out how it must respond to these moves. And I am not proposing it should dumb down its offerings, but it may be that the academy will be working for elites rather than the mass. Of course there won't be enough elites to go around.