Playing the devil's advocate on CPE

Mr Justice Lightman's speech to the Chancery Bar Association earlier this month has certainly stirred up something of a hornet's nest.

His comments on the education of young barristers in particular have provoked fury among those many lawyers who have trained via the Common Professional Examination route.

Judge Lightman asks how such an education could "qualify a barrister to be let loose on the public" and compares it to a doctor who has "studied O level biology and has a good bedside manner".

However, if Judge Lightman is wrong about the difference between barristers with law degrees and those without, he certainly has a point on training.

There are many top lawyers who do not have law degrees but instead have a grounding in equally relevant business, science or arts subjects. Or they come to the law later in life when they have accumulated experience in a particular area making it easier for them to understand their clients' problems.

The academic side of law is one point, the actual practical application of it is another.

Some new barristers, whether they possess or do not possess a law degree, are a liability which a continuing education programme may or may not resolve.

But it is not only Judge Lightman's views on training that makes this speech interesting.

He attacks the silk system, pointing out that there is a high price to be paid for keeping this division of the profession, and calls on the legal system to adopt a rule of court on mediation.

He also reads the riot act on barristers' fees as well as aggression in litigation.

Judge Lightman's speech may have been controversial but it certainly made some very valid points.