Learner drivers

It’s tense out there. Any minute now, the monster project that is the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) will publish its first offering – a literature review that will set the parameters of reform of the loose competence frameworks that underpin the legal training system.

And my, there’s plenty at stake. The LETR will have to second-guess the training needs for a transfigured market.

Some observations, then. The LETR will be investigating the reliability of competences (minimum standards of performance) and competencies (the attributes required for the job).

But there are already assumptions built into the competency model; as medical education academic Martin Talbot argued in 2004, it has a tendency “to limit the reflection, intuition, experience and higher order competence necessary for expert, holistic or well-developed practice”. The danger is that the destination becomes more important than the journey, which itself requires the development of personal and professional intuition.

The LETR – which, by the way, is dominated by academics rather than practitioners – will also expose the perennial tension between scholarly and commercial education providers. The College of Law would dearly like to see the LPC recognised as a legal qualification in its own right, presumably to give those without training contracts more kudos. Some may prefer that commercial providers stop offering so many LPC places, given contracting demand for trainees. Yet others want a rethink of the undergraduate degree into something less academic and more vocational.

While acknowledging firms’ frustration with wide-eyed 20-somethings, I don’t think they can ever expect a high level of commercial awareness at that age. Our education system is so geared to testing and tick-boxing that the precious years at university, where you might be exposed to different ways of thinking, is almost the only time in your life you get to experiment intellectually. Otherwise, an LLB will be a business studies degree, only posher.

Catrin Griffiths, editor