WG Hart, session 2

by Paul Maharg on 23/06/2014

Nina Fletcher, Law Society of E+W, on Solicitors and the market for legal services: perspectives on change, the future and uncertainty.  Stats on the legal market quite interesting update on LETR.  There’s been substantial growth in net export of legal services; ‘retail’ work (ie work undertaken on behalf of ordinary citizens) contributes to around 30% of total UK value — all providers.   Real turnover is forecast to grow; real international exports also to grow.  LETR forecast 8.6% rise between 2011-2020, so to date we haven’t been wrong (tho early days, of course…).  The number of solicitor firms is in decline.  11 practice areas account for 75% of total E+W solicitor firm turnover.  Corporate / commercial work = 25%, then big drop to 8.5% in Personal Injury, other practice areas of even smaller percentage than this.  PC holders have declined, but the work in corp/comm has increased, with retail work markedly slow.  Legal services, she concluded, will be the preserve of businesses and solicitors will play a smaller role (volume and value) in the future.  Consequences?  Fewer regulated solicitor firms operating and larger, fewer solicitor PC holders; paralegals the largest occupational group.  Well capitalised ABS will dominate in PI, convey and wills, increasing corporate heavyweights such as insurers.  What remains of the retail sector will be even more markedly divided between col and premium market sthan now.    But… Employed solicitors will have more varied roles, business buyer growth markets – eg IP and ADR; retail markets, solicitors as specialists for complex issues and bespoke solutions, etc.

Questions — what are the possible futures for legal education, given this update?  Which are high impact and high uncertainty?  What are the themes?

Nina presented some possible scenarios…


And the methodology by which the scenarios were derived –



Next up, Matthias Kilian, from Koln — Germany’s 2003 legal education reform – an empirical evaluation. Legal education is almost unique in Europe — Slovenia is nearest system.  University stage: 42 law faculties, no entry exam, access depends on final secondary school examinations, tuition fees abolished over the past few years in all federal states, and a trend to close down law faculties (eg Dresden, Rostock, Saarbrucken).   Statutory duration is 8 semesters or 4 years, average is 5.1 years, no Bologna model, see 1-4 = general studies skills followed by specialisation.  Post-university stage is clerkship, two year state-organised, after passing state legal exam, with pass rate of 62.4% in this state exam.  Clerkship is guaranteed, spent with court of general jurisdiction.  Then second legal state exam taken after 20 months of clerkship (85.7% pass rate).  In summary, legal education is modelled to dater for the needs of future judges and the end result is qualification for judgeship, deemed to be appropriate for lawyers.  German Bar Assoc has long lobbied against this.  2003 reforms introduced the lawyer-orientation of legal education, meeting with a mixed response from law faculties (for the usual reasons, conservativism, loss of autonomy, fear of loss of scholarship, etc).  Useful in bits, according to Matthias (I’m summarising hugely).  Has there been an impact on the market after 10 years?  2011 and 2012 quant studies, first with 700 lawyers trained as law clerks, and with 3,500 admitted to the Bar.  2013 study also.  The assessment of legal education showed quite poor results.  The ‘supervisory’ lawyers were asked if they noticed if knowledge and skills were better in the new regime.  Again, poor results.  Re ethics, three-quarters said they had insufficient knowledge of ethics and professional responsibility.   The problems that young lawyers had ranged from practical knowledge, knowledge of substantive law, advocacy.  On the whole a poor set of results for the new regime.  Why?  Matthias said that clerks were asking for leave of absence to prepare for the exams, so clerks weren’t in the office for nine months, as stipulated.  Quite a discouraging set of results.

My comments… The reforms clearly need reforming.  We commented on the dominance of the statsexamen in LETR.  This isn’t the only reason why the reforms have failed of course.  Like the failure of the reforms in Japan, it seems to be a systemic failure of legal educational culture at various levels and strata of the profession and the universities.  Very interesting to undertake an international survey of legal educational initiatives do not succeed, or as much as is hoped for.  And actually, if we compare Germany with Japan, surely the systemic elements predominate as elements crucial to success?  What are these?  There’s a book in legal ed failures, albeit a dismal one, which I commented on (ah, and I see Julian has just tweeted about it…), drawing also the bead between patterns of success and failure in many levels of education, kindergarten education, Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, No Child Left Behind in US, Finnish school education, etc.

Last paper in this session, Eyal Katvan, Ramat Gan – Are there two hemispheres in the legal profession and legal education in Israel?  There are 14 law schools in Israel, four faculties in universities, 10 comprising parts of colleges.  Although the first law colleges were established only in the 1990s, the number of law students at the colleges and of college alumnae who are accredited attorneys greatly exceeds the number of university law students and graduates.  According to the Israeli Bar, the colleges are responsible for Israel’s overpopulation of lawyers and the legal profession’s decline in prestige.  As Eyal says, these claims represent two hemispheres in the legal profession in Israel.  He points out, thought, the diversity and exclusion issues with regard to the socio-economic profiles of students and their backgrounds.

Good session.

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