Apprenticeships and other innovative routes into law must retain high standards or risk damaging the solicitor brand, the head of the University of Law warned this week as the Solicitors Regulation Authority prepared to ignite a ‘bonfire’ of entry regulations.
The SRA is due to publish its response to the Legal Education and Training Review tomorrow. Chief executive Antony Townsend said this will propose the ‘most far-reaching changes to legal education and training’ in over 40 years. At a conference last week he revealed that the regulator plans to scrap the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to qualifying as a solicitor, replacing it with a competence framework specifying the ‘knowledge, skill and attributes’ required on qualification.
The regulator will leave it to education providers and employers to come up with routes that achieve the ‘day one outcomes’ set by the SRA.
Nigel Savage (pictured), provost and president of the University of Law, said the big challenge is to ‘get clarity on standards to avoid dumbing down legal training’. He said the regulators’ response to LETR creates a ‘huge potential’ to develop routes of entry, but if they do not set standards high enough the quality of learning will be put at risk.
Savage said: ‘You can’t have an apprenticeship route with an easier standard – firms won’t recognise it. And it won’t do much for the brand of solicitor or barrister if routes to qualification become easier.’