The Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas has said that law schools must remain “centres of excellence” if English law is to remain a world leader.

He made the remarks in the Jill Poole Memorial Lecture at Aston University. The speech was given in March but the text has only now been published.

Lord Chief Justice, LCJ
Lord Thomas

He noted the reforms to how solicitors are trained that are currently taking place, saying: “At a time when the professions are, once again, reviewing the approach to be taken to legal education and training, it is absolutely essential that nothing is done to dilute the quality of a very broadly based legal education and law schools as the centres of excellence, not mere training grounds for the profession.”

“We live in a highly competitive world; our law students have to be among the best educated in the world with a broad understanding of law and its place in our society”, he said.

“For commercial lawyers, this means a grounding in the principles that underpin our law and an understanding of the modern commercial practices in which they must be applied. I would hope that one way in which new lawyers can gain such early exposure is through the development of greater and closer links between universities, law firms and commercial businesses.”

Lord Thomas added: “When a student becomes a professional, as a professional every good commercial lawyer must immerse himself or herself in understanding commerce and markets. No one can be a good commercial lawyer without such an immersion and a consequent understanding.”

“The great thing about the way in which we practice law in this country is that there is no way a successful practice can be achieved other than by understanding the way commerce and markets actually work.

“Moreover, as commerce, finance and business become ever more global, it is essential that lawyers continue to develop international practices.

“Whether this is through building on their current links in established commercial areas, or in building new links in countries that are developing their international commercial presence and expertise, we cannot but be an international profession, if we are to maintain our nation as a centre of legal excellence.”