The future of legal education?

Give a group of academics a wide brief and a two-year timescale to produce revolutionary recommendations for the future of educating prospective lawyers and what will they do? Ask for another six monthsand then produce a 370-page report high on theory and jargon and low on meaningful proposals.

Or at least that’s the reaction of leading law school figures as the long-delayed Legal Education and Training Review – pronounced ‘letter’ to those in the game – finally thumped on desks today.

And despite one law school senior player describing the tome as “not exactly an easy read”, the report does make some novel recommendations for streamlining the training of future solicitors, barristers and legal executives.  It even rushes for the high ground, saying ethics and morality need more focus in legal education.

But the top body representing high street clients – the Legal Services Consumer Panel – lambasted the report for shying away from its own core issue, periodic reaccreditation for practitioners in high risk areas of law.

Reviews of legal education have a long record of making an initial splash before shuffling into the long grass of historical obscurity. And the criticism of this report is that it was always going to be too academic – only one member of the main review team had anything resembling recent practice experience – and not sufficiently practical, especially for the City’s global giants.

In a market where English law schools are battling with counterparts in the US, Australia and Asia for the student cream, a verbose report that ultimately fiddles round the edges is likely to be destined to gather dust.

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