The chair of the bar’s regulator has called for a radical overhaul of legal professional education by merging the solicitors’ and barristers’ courses, to give young people longer to decide which branch of the profession they want to join.

Bar Standards Board chair Lady Deech said the training regime must be fit for the ‘new world’ of the Legal Services Act.

She said legal professional education must be revisited ‘in its entirety’, and suggested that a Future Legal Education Committee should be established.

‘Young people are being compelled to decide too early whether they want to be solicitors or barristers,’ said Deech, adding that trainees should not have to make a decision until they have experienced practice.

Deech said graduates should be able to take a single course that might last 18 months, giving them the option of covering advocacy as well as management, accounts and ethics.

‘There are too many hard cases at the moment of young people who have made the wrong choice; spent a lot of money and have no prospect of a job on the side of the profession they signed up to,’ she said.

Deech said the course should fit students for the ‘new world of referral barristers as well as dual capacity practitioners, alternative business structure practitioners, ‘Tesco law’ workers and barrister-only partnerships’.

A Bar Council spokesman said the issue needed proper investigation.

College of Law chief executive Nigel Savage said: ‘What we really need is a new strategy for education and training that embraces the undergraduate degree, which is not fit for purpose.’ He said the LPC and bar professional training course need to be improved, but combining them so advocacy was combined with transactional training would water down both.

‘Any combined programme would be hugely expensive, which wouldn’t do much for the diversity of the profession,’ Savage added.