Question Time session

by Paul Maharg on 11/07/2012

Chaired by Joshua Rozenberg – Diane Burleigh, Ashley Chambers, Peter Crisp CE BPP, Tony King, Taryn Lee QC, Julian Webb, Wes Pue on panel.  Vigorous questioning by Joshua in true Question Time fashion.  First question on employers and students: a variety of answers.  Wes gave the situation in Canada, and what he wanted to see from LETR was a simplication of the routes into qualification.  Taryn favoured an aptitude test.  Diane wanted to broaden out discussion to the debt-free route to qualification via CILEX — been there for 50 years — and as Chief Exec of CILEX she’s in a position to describe it in detail.  She wanted to hear more of that at the Symposium, rather than yet more detail and discussion about qualification of solicitors and barristers.  Good point!  Julian was pressed by Joshua about the range of routes — he said we (LETR) had a lot to learn from the CILEX approach, and the way the market was going, there would be more of those sort of routes in the future.

On questioner raised the question of balance of intellectual rigour and access.  How could that be achieved re the judiciary.  One way, suggested by my colleague Jane, is to train them from the outset, as in France (thanx Jane).  The sort of question that could result in pious replies – and there were quite a few that didn’t really get to the issue of how we achieve balance.  Joshua tried to be controversial, pointing out how the Bar was concerned about social mobility.  Ashley addressed some of the issues.   Some of the access routes he said, could be a little bit fairer — v good point, and the social capital literature (Sommerlad et al, eg) certainly evidences this.

Gus Johns made the point that HE replicates what’s going on in the school system.  The hierarchy of privilege still remained.  Does it not require some agreed system of affirmative action to ensure diversity and inclusion.  Ashley said there was a perception of old boys’ networks (not at his firm, he hastened to add).  Taryn — the Bar is doing work on that, she repeated, citing work on BME students at Inner Temple.  Interesting and essential question from Gus, and I’d have liked to have heard all speakers on the topic.

A question from an ILEX practitioner raised the issue of client handling.  Tony King observed the range of clients, from individual needs to corporate clients, and there needed to be particular skills for particular types of clients.  Diane said client-facing skills were taught, but not assessed, interestingly enough, because the practitioners were already doing this activity.  However this was going to be changed, and there will in due course be an assessment based on work-based learning.  Interesting issue re standardized client initiative — how might SCI be used in work-based learning schemes.

Julian cautioned us not to caricature academic legal education — there’s more variety and richness than we think.  Joshua pressed him — shd we bring informal client skill teaching into all legal ed programmes?  It’s been there in the LPC and BPTC for a while, Julian said.  From consumer client studies, communication is still an issue — good point.  Tony King observed that law services employers had a duty to ensure employees were trained appropriately in this regard.  In response to a question about such skills on the LPC, he noted that yes, client skills were expected, but at a progressive level throughout a firm.  Peter Crisp agreed, observed that alignment was currently missing between the various stages of legal education.  Useful session, with sign off by Joshua.

Sir Mark Potter & Dame Janet Gaymer wound up proceedings, describing it as an enormously helpful two days for LETR, and I completely agree with that.  Lots to think about, lots to discuss amongst LETR.  Mark thanked SRA staff, especially Tracy Varnava and her staff for the superb (which it was) organization of the whole event.  With all her experience and her sterling work at UKCLE, it was only what we would expect!

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