It’s all academic

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  • A good coverage of the issues.

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  • I write in response to the recent article ‘It’s all academic’, which appeared on your website (Monday, 30 January) relating to the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) being undertaken by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in conjunction with the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and IPS (ILEX Professional Standards).

    It is important to view the current stage of the review from the perspective of the key objectives for the review, which include:

    • to understand the initial and ongoing skills, ethical framework and competencies that will be needed by those delivering the legal services of the future;
    • to consider the various mechanisms by which these various skills and competencies can be delivered, and importantly,
    • to determine the extent to which regulators need to get involved in setting education and training requirements and overseeing their delivery.

    On this last point, particularly for the SRA which places requirements on firms to ensure a competent and ethical work force (see chapter 7 of the Code), we need to think in the round about the future separate and specific regulatory education and training requirements that should be placed on firms and individuals..

    The LETR is at the evidence-gathering stage of the project, which is why there is significant academic input. Better regulation principles set out that new regulation – particularly root and branch regulatory reform – should be informed by a strong evidence and research base. Who better to deliver this aspect than academics skilled at this sort of work? It is worth noting that the panel does include people experienced in law practice, not just academia, as the article states. For example, Avrom Sherr, aside from being Woolf Professor of Legal Education, has previously spent eight years as a commercial litigator, and continues to hold a practising certificate. We have, nevertheless, made sure that stakeholders have ample opportunity to provide input into the LETR. See www.letr.org.uk for further details.

    The extensive work undertaken this year will result in final recommendations being published in December 2012. It will be at that point the significant regulatory consideration required by each of the regulators to determine their approach to setting future education and training requirements, will begin. Depending upon the scale of the reform, any changes will not happen overnight and will involve significant stakeholder engagement, including formal consultation. LETR is the beginning, not the end of the process

    From the SRA’s perspective, the dramatic changes we have seen taking place in the legal landscape over the past year will have no small part to play in determining the reform we anticipate will be necessary to keep pace and provide a fit-for-purpose service to the public into the foreseeable future.

    Samantha Barrass
    Executive Director, SRA

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