Has the LPC had its day?

The solicitors’ profession is just embarking on a consultation which could result in a revolution in the way that solicitors are trained and authorised. The SRA’s response to the Legal Education and Training Review – Training for Tomorrow – is only 20 pages long, but the proposals which are outlined affect each stage of training from the qualifying law degree to continuing professional development and all steps in between.

Consultation will continue throughout 2014, so the final shape of the new framework will not be known for another year or more, but a possible outcome is a system of testing competency standards at the point of qualification, without prescribing any specific pathway/s to achieving those standards.

The SRA describe their proposals as “radical” and they are not wrong. The old sequential pattern of academic-vocational-practical is on the way out, to be replaced with a blank sheet of paper, on which individuals, firms, ABSs, universities, professional law schools can write their own training plan.

I suspect many firms will fill their blank sheet of paper with the old familiar training plan and recruit law graduates with qualifications indistinguishable from those currently mandated. But I hope that the profession and education and training providers will be more imaginative and seize the opportunity to devise a variety of brand new training pathways.

For example: do we really need the Legal Practice Course? The LPC has served us well but was devised at a time when the profession was much more homogeneous that it is today. Is it appropriate to have a single course which tries to prepare trainees for today’s huge variety of legal work, practices and business structures?

The LPC also suffers from a serious structural limitation. It tries to teach students vocational skills in a simulated environment. Many of these skills could be better taught in the workplace. The SRA review opens up the possibility of breaking down the barriers between the academic, vocational and practical stages of training, bringing knowledge acquisition closer to the office and the courtroom, and practical skills closer to the classroom and lecture hall.

Such a radical approach would require a new mind set from employers, most of whom currently demand that trainees start work ready to earn fees, and from education providers, who would need to become far more flexible. But it could produce entrants to the profession who are equipped with deeper legal knowledge and a wider range of work-related skills, ready to serve the public confidently from the moment of qualification.


3 thoughts on “Has the LPC had its day?

  1. JohnTee

    Interesting thoughts – and it seems inevitable that something will give, somewhere down the line in terms of how the LPC is structured – I agree that it is too inflexible and prescriptive for the current variety of practice. It still seems to operate from an assumption that all must be trained to be potential generalists, which many solicitors manifestly never are.

    To become more flexible as Ann understandably asks, however, training providers will have to cope with a huge slew of variables – customising training delivery not just to each employer but to each trainee won’t necessary come cheap (I hear hollow laughter from the back row – yes, I know the LPC isn’t exactly bargain basement as it is). Who will absorb the cost of the new tranche of training consultants needed to intermediate between the training on offer, the employer’s needs and the trainee? Can this be offset against lower fixed costs currently tied up in the LPC? I don’t know – glad it’s not my headache to work it out – but I think these questions will need to be asked.

  2. annevans9 Post author

    You’re right – cost is a massive issue. Not just how much, but also who bears the cost. Until now, the LPC has been run as a mass market operation by the likes of BPP and University of Law. They can produce a quality operation by utilising economies of scale. Now we have to start looking at it from the opposite end of the telescope: how can quality be maintained with an individualised approach, without breaking the bank. Not easy, but I believe the answer lies in a close analysis of the learning content and process, combined with the use of technology. There is huge untapped potential in using technology to create (or curate) individual learning pathways. Bringing large numbers of students together in classrooms to learn the same thing at the same time cannot be the most efficient way.

  3. Nigel Hudson

    The LPC, certainly in it’s current format, is dead in the water. All the evidence of falling student numbers, learners unable to get training contracts, and unimaginative Socratic teaching of content points to that. The killer for the major providers will be work-based learning. That will lead to further reduction in full-time students, reduce their fees and hit them in the pocket. You can’t teach work-based learning in a classroom and the classroom is currently the mass-education factory of choice.

    For those providers bold enough to embrace work-based learning, personal and social learning, cognitive and collaborative learning and bold enough to invest in new innovative pedagogical methodologies, the future is bright.

    Exciting times!

    Nigel Hudson
    Learning Design, Technology & Innovation Consultant


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