Blockchain, SQE and more: 5 things to consider for legal training over the next 12 months

Jody Tranter

Jody Tranter, BARBRI Altior

By Legal Futures’ Associate BARBRI Altior

With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the legal industry has already seen incredible changes in the way it operates, with more firms and legal professionals working remotely than ever before. As technology continues to evolve with digital transformation as a whole becoming an increasingly important focus in the sector, it is helping to support more flexible working practices, improve productivity and reduce cost. There are undoubtedly big changes ahead of us in the legal industry across the next 12 months, some of which may have been accelerated due to COVID-19 but cannot be disregarded for future operations. Head of BARBRI Altior, Jody Tranter, shares her key considerations for training and the legal profession as a whole over the next year.

Globalisation of legal markets

Globalisation of the legal profession began in the 1990s for firms operating in the UK and US and has slowly increased in popularity since then. Yet, as firms begin to feel the effects of Brexit on international operations, it’s likely that globalisation will become ever more important for those firms looking to maintain a competitive edge. We predict that law firms will likely be looking to expand into countries with economic growth potential including India, China and South Africa and that technology will continue to support this mission, meaning teams can continue to operate effectively from remote locations.

SQE introduction

The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) intends to introduce the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE) in the Autumn of 2021 to create a centralised exam for all prospective solicitors. Consisting of two parts, SQE1 will be knowledge-based whereas SQE2 will be skills-based. This new approach aims to open up current entry routes into the profession, meaning that applicants will not need to have a law degree specifically, but they will need to have a degree level equivalent qualification. Additionally, it will take a more flexible approach to training for learners and firms alike and we envisage that the benefits from this more flexible approach will start to be felt across the industry.

Focusing on blockchain

The introduction of cryptocurrency has been relatively slow in the legal industry, with only 2% of providers utilising this technology. However, we predict that its impact is set to increase, particularly in conveyancing law to enhance the speed of transactions and reduce costs to firms. In 2019, HM Land Registry completed a trial involving blockchain to digitally transfer property ownership. Although this was simply a ‘proof of concept’ activity, it has confirmed its Digital Street project, allowing the organisation until 2030 to familiarise itself with this technology and how it can be effectively integrated. During this time, it will likely become more commonplace for firms and legal professionals alike too, as more realise its potential.

Remote and flexible working

The coronavirus pandemic has seen professionals all over the world turn to remote working as the solution. However, outside of the current necessity, it does have its perks. CIPD research highlights that 87% of people want to work flexibly but only 11% of jobs are advertised as such. This research also shows that flexible working structures help to generate 43% more revenue and improves performance by 20% in comparison to disengaged employees. With secure storage via the cloud and changing expectations for the working environment, we expect to see this trend continue beyond the coronavirus outbreak, especially for those working to create a better work/life balance or manage family life.

Freelance solicitors

In November 2019, the SRA confirmed that solicitors would be able to explore a freelance service offering, something that had not been available previously. They no longer will have to register as sole practitioners or work as in-house counsel but instead, will be able to generate their own work. According to Law Society Gazette, consumers in the UK have already embraced this initiative, with 58% stating that they would be ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to use a freelance solicitor if the price point was lower than appointing a firm.

The legal industry is continuing to evolve in line with technology, as well as the changing needs of professionals who operate within the sector. Over the next 12 months, we predict that LawTech such as blockchain will have a greater impact on operations, helping to streamline processes and heighten efficiencies. Yet, we would estimate that additional technological developments will also be introduced or bolstered within the industry as it continues to gain prominence. However, changes to qualification will also have a far-reaching impact, with many firms and individuals looking to prepare for and respond to the introduction of the SQE. This will be the biggest change since the introduction of the Professional Skills Course (PSC) in the 1990s and as a training provider preparing to deliver SQE prep, we will be closely monitoring this situation as it evolves.

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