There is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to produce a “bold blueprint” for change in legal education and training, but “vested interests” are striving to water it down, the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) has cautioned.
In a letter to Professor Julian Webb, the head of the Legal Education and Training Review’s (LETR) research team – which this week closed for comments in the run-up to publishing its final report in December – the LSCP’s chair, Elisabeth Davies, urged the team to put the interests of consumers at the forefront of its recommended scheme.
The review needs to change the existing education and training system “to equip professionals with the tools to service consumers in the future market place”, she said, adding: “The review team must not be dragged down by vested interests striving to protect the status quo, but instead set out a bold blueprint for the future. This opportunity will not come along again soon and cannot be missed.”
The existing continuing professional development (CPD) framework should be replaced by one “based on measuring active competence” – including regularly demonstrating technical competence – and that makes the experiences of clients “an integral part of the process for reviewing lawyer performance”.
Ms Davies noted approvingly that the revalidation proposals for doctors include a requirement for feedback from patients and colleagues. “It is not enough for lawyers to attend training courses and the like to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date; there must be a much more rounded and evidenced view of their continuing fitness to practise,” she argued.
While she accepted that the LETR considered broader regulatory matters were beyond its remit, Ms Davies said the final report should acknowledge a revised legal education and training system would “be principally designed around what regulators require to ensure competent and ethical legal services for consumers”.
Also, the “the general practitioner versus activity-based authorisation debate is critical to decisions about individual elements of the legal education and training framework”. Regulators should address the issue when deciding how to implement the report’s findings, she said.
Finally, Ms Davies argued consumers should “continue to have a voice” after publication of the LETR’s report and so its recommendations should cover “continued stakeholder input which explicitly includes discrete consumer representation”.