Legal Business

It’s high time we moved on – why legal education fails the key test

Nigel Savage argues that legal education is falling further behind the realities of the industry

Let’s get this in context right off the bat. The Training for Tomorrow proposals by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) represent the most radical change in legal education for over 20 years. When one considers the massive structural changes in the legal services market in recent years, which have been covered extensively in these pages before, we are faced with a unique situation. The legal services sector has moved on and is tackling fundamental issues provoked by a combination of market forces, regulatory changes and the impact of technology. The SRA needs to reflect that environment within the new test of knowledge and competence (the mooted Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), which is billed as a means of raising professional standards and allowing more flexible routes to qualification). It is, however, constrained by the contradiction of a regulatory framework based as much on historic and largely outdated concepts of ‘reserved’ activity and the reality that a huge proportion of the work that takes place in the market (particularly the City) is not reserved and therefore doesn’t require solicitor status. Even where it is reserved, others can often deliver it at a much lower cost.