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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Legal Services Regulatory Authority of Ireland consultation on admissions

The Legal Services Regulation Authority of Ireland (LSRA) preparing and submitting its statutorily required annual report for the Minister for Justice an on admission policies into the legal professions.

The report will contain the following elements:
(a) the number of persons admitted to practise as solicitors during 2020;
(b) the number of persons admitted to practise as barristers during 2020;
(c) an assessment as to whether or not, having regard to the demand for the services of practising barristers and solicitors and the need to ensure an adequate standard of education and training for persons admitted to practise, the number of persons admitted to practise as barristers and solicitors in 2019 is consistent with the public interest in ensuring the availability of such services at a reasonable cost.

The LSRA is interested to hear from those who are directly involved in the provision of legal services as well as from employers, state agencies, non-governmental bodies and other organisations and individuals who deliver and use legal services.

The LSRA is interested in views on whether there are any potential developments which are external to the legal sector (e.g. economic, social or technological) which might impact on admissions to the legal professions and the availability of the services of solicitors and barristers at a reasonable cost.

Following the consultation and other evidence gathering activities, the LSRA will draw up a report to the Minister of Justice. The final report will be submitted to the Minister by 30 April 2021.

Submissions may be sent to publicconsultations@lsra.ie

Read the full call for responses, including what the LSRA would like comment on here.

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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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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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Is Legal Education Over-Regulated or Under-Regulated?

Abstract

Posing the challenges facing legal education as concerned with its under- or over-regulation is the wrong question. Instead, we need to cast fresh eyes on the question of legal education beyond the binary of over-and under-regulation. This paper identifies three inter-related factors that reveal the inadequacy of our long-standing discourse on the regulation of Australian legal education: the misapprehension as to the source of the qualifying (regulated) law curriculum; the profession’s own inability to articulate ‘work-readiness’ as a feature of legal education; and the university as a legacy institution.

Galloway, Kate, Is Legal Education Over-Regulated or Under-Regulated? (October 2, 2020).

Read the full paper at SSRN.

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