The evolution of legal training – what’s next?

The legal training landscape is undoubtedly changing – from the highly anticipated introduction of the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE) in autumn 2021, to the potential reintroduction of the Continuing Competence statement, we anticipate that we’ll see quite an evolutionary step-change over the coming months. Not only will these changes set the tone for the future of legal training but will arguably help to simplify matters to meet the evolving needs of firms and solicitors across England and Wales, ensuring consistency across the board. For our blog this week, we’ll be talking about ‘What’s next’ and what it potentially means for you and your firm.

SQE Introduction
With the SQE set to standardise and simplify the qualification process in England and Wales, it is one of the biggest changes impacting the industry since the introduction of the Professional Skills Course in the early 1990s. Taking a centralised approach, it’ll consist of two parts – SQE1 which is a knowledge-based assessment, combining content that would be previously covered across both the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC); and SQE2 which is skills-based, assessing broader areas including legal research, advocacy and more. We are yet to understand the full effect it will have on the industry, with many conversations currently being focused around training budget implications, the number of trainees brought on board and the way in which legal professionals will now enter the industry as a whole. However, regardless of what does ensue, we must remember that training will continue to be invaluable at all legal development stages and with the introduction of the SQE1, firms will have the ability to tailor individual and firm-specific training and development requirements.

Continuing competence back on the table?
Since 2016, solicitors have had to make an annual commitment to reflect on the quality of their practice and identify any learning and development needs without strict criteria to adhere to. Yet, less than five years later, the yearly quota for Continuing Competence is back on the table, with the Legal Service Board confirming that it wants to take another look at ensuring professional competence, according to Law Society Gazette. Fewer formal checks are now carried out on legal professionals over the course of their careers and arguably, more work needs to be done to agree what ‘competence’ and ‘compliance’ really mean in this professional environment and ultimately, what members of the public expect from the profession. With the consultation on this set to close on 15 May 2020, we anticipate that we’ll see more conversations around this issue over the coming months.

The student becomes the professional
As well as the wider evolution of the industry as a whole, we must not forget the progression that legal professionals go through before they become a practising solicitor. Not only is there a requirement to develop the professional skills needed to effectively practice, but also exceptional personal skills which allow legal professionals to manage client relationships and deliver ‘presentations’ in the courtroom. The transition from  law student to trainee and then qualified solicitor can be a challenge. Completing your training with an organisation that focuses upon professional development rather than continuing to operate as a student can only help to smooth this transition into life in practice. Delegates who choose this route can gain wider personal insight from professionals who share a wealth of experience in the sector. This is the time to step out of student mode and into professional mode. With the SQE changes in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how attitudes change to reflect the different stages of professional growth.

The legal industry is undoubtedly changing to adhere to the evolving needs of solicitors, firms and clients of the present day. As the SQE is implemented in 2021, we anticipate that we will see an alternative approach to learning and development, and we predict that it will also bring the introduction of new courses, particularly around topics including LawTech. At Altior, we’re here to support you throughout these changes and beyond. If you’d like to speak to our team about your training requirements or to further understand what the upcoming changes mean for you, contact us today on: 02920 451 000.

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