Maybe I’m just a cynical old hack, but does anyone else think that the long-awaited, much-delayed final report of the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) is focused more on safeguarding long-term jobs for the regulators than on improving the education and training of lawyers?
Everywhere you look, there are exhortations that echo horribly the sort of diktats that we have come to expect from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Let’s all go big on ‘outcome statements’, the report urges. Although, on the whole, one might prefer that ‘learning outcomes’ are ‘cascaded downwards’ (not that cascades, in my experience, ever go upwards).
Elsewhere, the report recommends that ‘mechanisms should be put in place for regulators to coordinate and cooperate with relevant stakeholders’, which sounds like something from a teenager’s business studies essay. (And sorry to harp on about poor English, but they wouldn’t be ‘stakeholders’ if they weren’t ‘relevant’. Maybe the authors of the report should go back to school?)
Spirits droop at the report’s call for ‘periodic refresher or recertification requirements’ and despair is the only option if the report’s Legal Education Council comes into being - to perform, amongst other duties, ‘diversity monitoring and the evaluation of diversity initiatives’.
The report was commissioned by the three legal services regulators – the SRA, the Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Standards – and it is jobs for the boys all the way through. Tick this box, integrate and implement that, and let’s not forget ‘robust mechanisms’ and ‘horizontal and vertical mobility’.
My first blog on the LETR almost exactly a year ago said that there was nothing new about the research team’s deliberations. We have heard it all before, I griped.
So is there anything refreshingly new about the finished item? In all honesty, the answer is ‘yes’.
What caught my jaundiced eye was the recommendation that advocacy training should prepare lawyers for appearing against litigants in person (LIPs). This is a growing problem, as we all know, what with legal aid withering on the vine and more and more non-lawyers, with varying degrees of competence, having to represent themselves.
It can only expedite matters if lawyers know how to make their meaning clear to LIPs and recognise how baffling the whole legal process can be to them.
So the LETR report was not a total waste of time, then, even if it did cost the profession an estimated £350,000.
Jonathan Rayner is a Gazette reporter