Proposals to radically broaden qualification routes to becoming a solicitor require ‘a leap of faith’ to discern how they will work, the Law Society has cautioned.

Chancery Lane was responding to plans for a revolution in professional training set out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority following June’s publication of the Legal Education and Training Review.

As reported in last week’s Gazette, the SRA wants to amend regulations to create a diversity of training routes, leaving educational providers and employers to come up with routes that achieve ‘day-one’ outcomes.

In its Training for Tomorrow policy document, the regulator proposes moving away from academic routes into the profession to ‘permit much greater flexibility as to how those competencies are acquired’.

The Law Society welcomed the SRA’s objectives but said more detail is needed. John Wotton (pictured), chair of the Society’s education and training committee, said the SRA’s plans to implement changes by pulling back from specifying how solicitors should qualify in the future require a ‘leap of faith’.

He said: ‘When you try to work out how it will be introduced, that is where you wonder how it can be done. What is left unclear is by whom or what set of people, and by what means this will be achieved consistently.’

The policy statement lays out an ‘enormous programme, which could last for a decade’, said Wotton. ‘The question is how dramatic are these changes going to be and how the competency framework will be administered. The SRA does not have the resources to do this itself.’

The SRA will open a consultation on its review of training regulations by January, and on its competency framework in summer 2014.

The SRA proposals include:

  • Moving away from ‘prescriptive pathways’ to qualification of law degrees, common professional examination and legal practice courses and training.
  • Ending the ‘tick-box’ approach to post-qualification training.
  • Ensuring those who deliver legal services meet SRA standards, but with less emphasis on process.
  • More flexibility for higher education institutions, vocational training providers and employers to come up with innovative ways of achieving outcomes.
  • Widening access to the profession through apprenticeships, integrated academic, vocational and ‘on the job’ training courses.
  • Allowing individual entities to develop their own internal post-qualification professional development.

See this week’s Comment by Charles Plant.