Legal Services Board releases options on ongoing competence

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published anew report on ongoing competence in the legal services sector. Confirming that it plans to develop this thinking further and consult on how competence can be assured over the course of a lawyer’s career. In the report the LSB points out that whilst legal regulators have comprehensive measures on entry into the profession, however there are few checks to ensure that competence is maintained.

The report was produced following the call for evidence that was carried out in 2020. It has been compiled using extensive discussions with stakeholders across and outside the legal services sector. It also considers approaches taken in other sectors such as financial services, aviation, healthcare, engineering and teaching, which generally have more systematic ongoing competence checks.

From its research, the LSB has concluded that most consumers mistakenly assume that lawyers are subject to regular formal checks. It has suggested that this leads to a misalignment between the current practice and what the public expects. This is why the decision has been made that ensuring legal professionals’ ongoing competence is vital to ensuring consumers’ trust and confidence in the sector. The LSB’s view is that this would also help consumers avoid harm from poor quality legal services.

In its role as the oversight regulator, the LSB has a statutory duty to assist in developing regulatory standards in the legal sector. In the report, the LSB explains that it will proceed to develop and consult on new expectations for regulators, noting that these proposals are likely to encompass high-level expectations that legal regulators should:

  • set out the standards of competence that legal professionals should meet at the point of entry and throughout their careers; and
  • have mechanisms in place to:
    • identify legal professionals who are failing to meet those standards;
    • identify areas of increased risk to consumers;
    • respond when legal professionals fall short of the standards of competence;
    • provide appropriate protection when there is an increased risk of harm to consumers.

Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Sector, said:

‘Public trust and confidence are integral to the credibility of the legal services sector, and consumers need to know that their lawyers have the necessary, up-to-date skills, knowledge and attributes to help them with their legal problems. Many people assume that legal professionals are subject to ongoing formal reviews of their competence, but there are, in fact, very few routine checks once a lawyer has qualified. Legal regulators typically do not have systems or processes in place to identify or respond to concerns about competence. This is unusual and out of step with other professions which routinely adopt tools to ensure ongoing competence to promote public trust and confidence, and protect consumers from harm. We need to reshape legal services to better meet the needs of society, which includes ensuring lawyers remain competent throughout their careers. This will help increase trust in legal services, raise standards and improve access to justice.’

Read the full report here, or the LSBs comments here.

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Legal Skills: Making a Real Change in Nigerian Legal Education

Abstract

The hallmark of legal education is the transfer and acquisition of knowledge of legal theories and skills. The purpose of this chapter is to examine those legal skills that are crucial to both the study and practice of law. This chapter argues that legal education in Nigeria is confronted with a crisis that can be attributed to the non-teaching of functional legal skills to initiates of the legal profession, on the assumption that such skills would naturally be learned by law students on entering the legal profession. It calls for a transformational change in the teaching approach in Nigerian legal education, from the present asymmetric approach of teaching law to one that is integrative and comprehensive in nature and capable of producing functional lawyers.

Solomon, Ekokoi, Legal Skills: Making a Real Change in Nigerian Legal Education (February 3, 2020). Legal pedagogy,

Read the full article on SSRN.

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Canadian Law Schools Must Do Their Part to Help Combat Climate Change

The intensifying physical and socio-economic effects of climate change, mainstreamed by political debates and scientific evidence on anthropogenic disruptions to the global climate system, have motivated changing legislation, regulation, litigation, and institutions. But legal education is not keeping up; climate change has not yet been taught well and broadly in Canadian law schools. While a few schools have offered climate law courses, the majority have not done so in any systematic way. The unprecedentedly expanding demands from youth and students for aggressive climate action should call the attention of law schools to the roles they should play in combatting climate change.

Chen, Ling, Canadian Law Schools Must Do Their Part to Help Combat Climate Change (January 6, 2020). Policy Options (February 18, 2020),

Read the full article on SSRN.

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National Conference of Bar Examiners testing taskforce recommendations for next generation of bar exams

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) testing taskforce has released preliminary recommendations as to what it feels that the next generation of bar examinations should look like. As part of its examination process, the NCBE is committed to periodic content review and design, in order to ensure high-quality licensing and examinations. The recommendations are a culmination of a 3-year study which included stakeholder interviews, and ongoing market analysis, in order to ensure lawyer competencies were being tested and were adequate for an evolving legal profession.

Based on their extensive research, the Task Force has made some high-level decisions about the content and the design for the next generation of the bar examination. Those decisions are founded on the principle that the purpose of the bar exam is designed “to protect the public by helping to ensure that those who are newly licensed possess the minimum knowledge and skills to perform activities typically required of an entry-level lawyer.”

The preliminary recommendations specify the use of an integrated examination that measures both knowledge and skills through a mix of item formats. The exam will be offered two times per year as a summative event and delivered by computer. Compensatory scoring will be used to produce a single combined score for making admission decisions.

 

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Solicitor’s Regulation Authority conference on upcoming qualification changes

The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority of England and Wales (SRA) has published video recordings of its 2020 conference on the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The SQE is a new qualification system being implemented in England and Wales over the course of this year.

Conference topics included provider and firm strategies around the changes, changes to qualifying work experience, and how the changes will affect diversity in the profession.

View the full conference recording here. 

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Event: Global trends and challenges in legal education and legal practice

28 JAN 2021 1300 – 1400 GMT

Online

The connection between legal practice and legal education is extremely relevant for law firms and legal departments, as well as for universities and bar associations. This webinar will explore the connection between the most recent global trends and challenges in legal practice and legal education.
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Listening and Relational Lawyering

Abstract

Legal professionals spend much if not most of their time listening to others, including clients, witnesses, co-workers, and judges. And yet, lawyers are notorious for being poor listeners. Perhaps this helps explain why the legal profession consistently gets ranked as one of the least trusted professions. The primary reasons for clients’ dissatisfaction have more to do with lawyers’ poor communication skills, and specifically, their poor listening skills, rather than about legal outcomes or the cost of their services. The weakness of lawyers’ listening skills is perhaps unsurprising given that listening traditionally has not been taught in the core law school curriculum. Nevertheless, a growing number of legal academics are calling for teaching listening as part of a broader set of relational perspectives and practices that can inform our understanding of law as well as legal practice, and perhaps can shift the legal culture as a whole toward being more relational. A relational approach, which the author refers to as “relational lawyering,” starts from the premise that all human beings are interconnected and share the same basic needs and interests. This chapter discusses the evolution of listening and highlights developments within and outside of legal education that are resulting in listening being viewed as a core competency. It then turns to what it means to teach listening holistically as a part of a relational framework and offers innovative tools and practices for incorporating a relational approach to listening into the training of legal professionals, including attorneys and judges. The chapter concludes with some thoughts about future directions for teaching listening within the legal field.

Brooks, Susan L., Listening and Relational Lawyering (July 1, 2020). Susan L. Brooks, Listening and Relational Lawyering, in Handbook on Listening (Worthington & Bodie, eds. 2020).
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Solicitors Regulation Authority publishes compliance officers conference online

The Solicitors Regulation Authority of England and Wales (SRA), has published recordings of their recent compliance officers (COLP) conference on their website. Due to the content of the conference, looking at regulatory and compliance developments, ICLR members may well find the content interesting and relevant to their own regulatory work.

Sessions included:

  • Discussions around rule changes that allowed for third party management of client accounts and why there hasn’t been more uptake
  • Anti-money laundering
  • Changes to the legal education system with the new solicitors qualifying exam, and
  • The cybercrime risks associated with working from home.

All the sessions are available to watch on the SRA website.

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Regulatory developments in Ireland

On the 19th November, The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) published two separate reports with recommendations to the Minister for Justice.

The first report is entitled, “Setting Standards: Legal Practitioner Education and Training“. The report is focused on examining the competence and standards required to practise as either a Solicitor or a Barrister in Ireland. The report contains two central recommendations:
1. A clear definition of the competence and standards required to practise as a solicitor or barrister should be developed;
2. The introduction of a statutory framework to establish a new and independent Legal Practitioner Education and Training Committee, which would be statutorily required and empowered to set the competency framework for legal practitioner education and training; develop a common set of competencies and standards for admission to professional legal training, and ensure that existing providers of legal education and training adhere to the standards required by the competency framework on an ongoing basis.

The second report is entitled, “Greater than the Sum of Its Parts? Consideration of Unification of the Solicitors’ Profession and Barristers’ Profession“. The report examines the case for the unification of the profession in Ireland, putting the question out for comment to the public. However, the Authority has concluded that at this stage in its regulatory timeline it would be premature to recommend that the two branches of the profession be unified. The Authority undertakes in the report to return to the matter within five years when it anticipates that the landscape for legal services providers will have evolved sufficiently for it to reconsider the question of unification as posed in the Act. This is due to upcoming changes including the introduction of relaxed rules around legal partnerships between barristers and other barristers or solicitors, as well as further consideration around multi-disciplinary practices.

These reports fulfil the LSRA’s statutory mandate to ensure the maintenance and improvement of standards in the provision of legal services by legal practitioners. Both reports have been submitted to the Minister, as required under section 34 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015.

The LSRA’s press release on the two reports is available here. (PDF)

 

 

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American Bar Association Recognised Law School requirements relaxed due to COVID

The Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has announced that they will consider individual law school circumstances due to COVID-19 if bar passage rates fall below 75%. During the announcement at it’s November 20th public meeting, the council said law schools failing to meet Standard 316, sometimes called ‘the Bar Passage Standard’, could submit pandemic-related information that demonstrates negative opportunities for their graduates to sit for the bar exam or for the school to meet compliance with ‘the Standard’. This is particularly salient as rules adopted in 2019 mean that a law school faces a finding of noncompliance and loss of accreditation if it does not meet Standard 316 for two years.

Outside parties had asked for the suspension of Standard 316 during the COVID-19 period because of the bar exam’s changing schedule and the rule’s potential discriminatory effect on schools with strong minority enrollment. But the council’s Questionnaire and Template Committee said its “recommendations balance several competing interests.”

The committee’s report has said “There is a need to collect outcomes data required by the U.S. Department of Education but also the understanding that any data on the bar exam passage rates during the COVID-19 pandemic will likely be abnormal and need to have an ‘asterisk’ accompany it. The pandemic wreaked havoc with planning for in-person bar exams, and subsequently many states this year held bar exams in October instead of July. According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, five jurisdictions also granted emergency diploma privileges or approval for some law school graduates to practice without passing the bar.”

Read more on the ABA’s website.

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