An in-depth study into education and training within the profession will address the current ‘mismatch’ between the number of Legal Practice Course graduates and training contracts, and will assess the role of paralegals, the Legal Services Board has said.

Shedding further light on the forthcoming training review which was announced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority last November, the profession’s overarching regulator said it would look at supply and demand in the market.

As oversight regulator, the LSB will work with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board to ensure that the training review addresses the relevant issues.

In its draft business plan for 2011/12, the LSB said: ‘As the market changes [with the advent of alternative business structures], the existing education and training framework needs to evolve to meet new conditions and changed needs.

‘We will assess how education and training requirements an be used as a regulatory tool to ensure the acquisition and maintenance of proper standards of professional and ethical competence across the legal workforce.

‘To deliver this, we will work with approved regulators to develop a strategic assessment of the likely education and training needs of the legal workforce at all levels in 2020.

‘The focus of this work will stretch across all stages, from non-graduate entry routes and undergraduate degree level, through to qualification, continuing professional development and post-qualification quality assurance.

‘Issues concerning capacity and supply will also be examined, including the current mismatch between the numbers of students completing the vocational stage of training (Legal Practice Course/Bar Professional Training Course) and the number of training contracts and pupillages available across the market.’

The paper said: ‘Continuing the focus on entry, we will explore the expanding role played by paralegals in providing services (with or without supervision from a qualified lawyer) without regulatory requirements regarding competency standards and training.

‘A particular focus will be on defining the key principles for education and training requirements that should be part of the regulatory framework. We will use these as a point of reference when considering rule change applications that relate to education and training.’

It added: ‘An important step will be to determine whether additional regulatory requirements are needed post- qualification to tackle risk of consumer detriment, particularly in the context of increasing specialisation.

‘We will continue to work with the JAG on the development of the Quality Assurance for Advocates Scheme as one initial vehicle for this work, ensuring that the proposals that emerge are adequate in terms of the principles we have set for the Scheme.’

Last week, former bar chairman Nick Green QC said the burgeoning body of paralegals will have a massive impact on solicitors and barristers.