The ingredients of legal competence

4.60     In describing the range of legal competencies, this section draws on the review of competence frameworks and academic literature in Briefing Paper 1/2012, the LETR data on knowledge and skills gaps, discussed in Chapter 2, and the comparative work already undertaken in this chapter. It also draws on a number of other published sources discussing the range of attributes that underpin competence, and that may be required of a lawyer. So far as possible the attributes identified are generic rather than role-specific. They are mapped against the various ‘dimensions’ identified by Epstein and Hundert[1] in order to provide both a reasonably thick description of competence, and a basic template for the scope of statements of competence in LSET and in legal practice itself.

4.61     The primary focus of the LETR research phase has been on systems and structures rather than content. It is not the function of this report to create a set of outcome specifications. Nonetheless, the data gathered have presented a broad picture of knowledge and skills gaps, and some indications of where and how these gaps might be addressed. These gaps will be considered within this section, but they need also to be tested empirically to ensure the appropriateness of the specified outcomes.

Cognitive dimension

4.62     Key legal attributes under this heading are often referred to as ‘thinking like a lawyer’,[2] a loosely-defined developmental concept that encompasses acquisition of core legal knowledge and legal reasoning skills, often in an academic environment, before (or sometimes alongside) becoming focused on ‘practical problem-solving’ in the vocational training/practice setting. The range of necessary ‘core knowledge’ has been a recurrent topic for LSET, particularly as regards the scope of the academic Foundation subjects. For ease of reference, this is considered separately at the end of this section.

4.63     Research data for the LETR suggest that the underlying cognitive ability of trainees is not a major concern; they are generally regarded as bright and possessing the level of understanding required for the work (cf also Baron, 2011).

4.64     However, there are areas of cognitive expertise that are not adequately captured by conventional legal notions of the core. Key examples are professional ethics and values and ‘commercial awareness’. Gaps in oral and written communication skills and drafting are, as noted in Chapter 2, a recurrent concern, and are also highlighted by Baron (2011).

Ethics, values and professionalism

4.65     This was rated the most important knowledge area in the LETR online survey, a result which echoed the demand for a greater emphasis on professional ethics and conduct across the qualitative data and stakeholder responses to Discussion Papers. It is also an area that bridges the affective/moral domain and ‘habits of mind’, as well as the cognitive dimension.

4.66     An increased emphasis on ethics and legal values in LSET would be consistent with the focus of the LSA 2007 regulatory objectives, and the need to develop a more thoughtful and contextual approach to professional obligations, particularly where those are expressed via principles-based regulation or OFR rather than detailed rules. It is suggested that all approved regulators review the treatment of ethics and professionalism within their education and training regimes to ensure that the subject is addressed with the prominence and in the depth appropriate to the public profession of law.

4.67     A majority of respondents took the view that ethics and professionalism need to be developed throughout the continuum of education and training. This view is accepted and underpins a number of the final recommendations in this report. The approach taken in Scotland which seeks to develop professionalism as a distinct foundation for both the professional training (PEAT 1) and work-based (PEAT 2) stages of training is also commended, not least for its capacity to link commitments to personal integrity, continuing improvement, public service and diversity to the legal role.[3]

Commercial and social awareness

4.68     LETR research data, discussed in Chapter 2, highlighted the significance of commercial awareness to clients and suggested that this includes:

  • awareness of the sector and the clients’ business; having an interest in the sector so as to be able to communicate with clients;
  • an ability to recognise clients’ commercial objectives rather than proposing ‘pure law’ solutions;
  • wider knowledge of commercial and financial subjects: understanding relevant financial products; corporate structures; markets and sectors;
  • numeracy and ability to interpret financial data;
  • understanding of law as a business: that firms (etc) are profit-making entities; marketing and networking; how law firms and chambers are run.

4.69     There is a clear case for making commercial awareness a more explicit feature of training at the LPC stage, particularly for those who are following a corporate and commercial pathway. Although highly valued by commercial law firms, commercial and business awareness was not rated as a priority by legal service providers across the board. It would not be appropriate therefore to make this a formal requirement at the academic stage as such, though it does serve to highlight the importance of transferable knowledge and skills at this stage, notably knowledge of the social, political and economic context of law, and of current world affairs, critical thinking skills and basic numeracy and financial literacy.[4] There was also some limited evidence of an equivalent need for ‘social awareness’ for those operating in high street and particularly legal aid settings, though that may in part be a cipher for communication skills and empathy.

4.70     There is also a case for including a greater understanding of the transformative potential of information technology under this heading. It is not sufficient to ensure that trainees or prospective trainees understand how technology is used to facilitate current work tasks without also helping them to understand how it can radically change, and is changing, their business models and the way clients may access and use legal information. In this context Richard Susskind’s (2012) suggestion that law schools should include an optional course on developments in legal services deserves to be taken seriously.[5]

4.71     CILEx might also wish to consider, particularly as it does more to prepare members for management and leadership roles in the sector, whether its qualifications, particularly at level 6, though providing a strong grounding in doctrinal law, do enough to highlight the social and commercial environment within which law operates to align with the business awareness component of the CILEx Competency Framework.

Communication skills

4.72     The existence of gaps in communication skills, and the importance of including learning outcomes relating to communication has been highlighted across a range of professional settings (see, eg, Jackling and De Lange, 2009; also the work of the UK Council of Clinical Communication in Undergraduate Medical Education (UKCCC).[6] Consistent with this, a considerable emphasis was placed by LETR research respondents on the importance of communication skills, and the need for communication skills to be taught throughout the training process. As noted in Chapter 2, concerns were expressed about the development of generic written skills at the undergraduate stage, and whether students were gaining sufficient experience of writing for a range of purposes and audiences. Doubts were also expressed about the quality of writing and drafting training on the LPC, and to a lesser extent on courses provided through CILEx. In the latter case the evidence seemed to suggest that at least some of the concern was due to a perceived gap between techniques and styles taught in the classroom and those used in practice.[7] Variations between ‘house styles’ of drafting and opinion writing and the styles adopted by the LPC and BPTC were also highlighted, on the basis that the transition to practice required some unlearning and re-learning of those skills.

4.73     Apart from advocacy (discussed separately below), providers and employers were largely in favour of the development of oral communication skills at the undergraduate level. Consumer data point to the need for lawyers, particularly those working in private plight settings, to enhance their client communication skills. A number of comments involved views that communication skills required development and refreshing throughout the legal career. The issue is not necessarily that these skills are not taught, but that they may not be taught well enough. Brown (2006:218) has made the point that, unlike a number of other professional domains, communication skills training has tended to draw heavily on lawyers’ ‘craft knowledge’,[8] with insufficient awareness of communication research. Brown also notes that there are no evidence-based studies of the efficacy of current communication skills training in law.

Legal research

4.74     There is evidence of variability in the development of research skills and digital literacy at the LLB, GDL and LPC stages.[9] The intensity of the GDL course in particular has been seen to constrain the development of research skills, particularly if students do not have the opportunity to produce a long essay or project in the field. In reviewing outcomes for legal research, consideration should be given to the BIALL legal literacy and SCONUL outcomes statements noted in Chapter 2.


4.75     Longstanding concerns about the variability of the quality of advocacy quality have already led to the development of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA). It is also acknowledged that there have been significant advances in the development of advocacy on the BVC and BPTC, and through the Bar’s New Practitioners’ Programme,[10] which have made a significant difference to the level of initial advocacy training. The quality of advocacy training was strongly endorsed by pupils and first year tenants surveyed by the Bell Working Party in 2004, and this finding was largely replicated by the student survey undertaken for the Wood Review (BSB, 2008), though this indicated that the standard of criminal advocacy teaching was generally rated more highly than that for civil advocacy. By contrast, the quality of advocacy training for LPC students and trainees has not been so highly regarded by either the students or third parties. This problem is exacerbated by doubts as to the quality of the advocacy training on the Professional Skills Course taken during the training contract. As the JLD[11] and others have observed, advocacy should be reinforced on the LPC, or within the training contract. The move to a more modular LPC would make it possible to develop a substantial module, which might be better integrated with practical experience on the training contract.


4.76     Expertise is characterised by practitioners’ increasing ability to ‘initiate a process of problem solving from minimal information and use subsequent information to refine their understanding of the problem’ (Epstein and Hundert, 2002:228). It is characterised by the capacity to use problem-solving skills appropriate to the situation, to synthesise domain knowledge and to possess an understanding of the operational context and parameters of the problem. It draws on a range of meta- and composite competencies. For example, Economides and Smallcombe (1991) identify a skill of ‘break-in’ – the capacity to read one’s way into a new legal topic, brief, or case file, quickly and absorb the necessary information – as an important composite of information-handling and problem-solving skills. At its upper end it is likely to be reflected in the ability to deliver ‘cutting-edge thinking’ (Financial Times/Managing Partners’ Forum, 2011) rather than pre-packaged solutions, an attribute highly prized by clients. These skills are often encapsulated in broad concepts like critical or creative thinking, but these are not necessarily well understood within LSET, and some respondents suggested they could be better addressed in the education and training of law undergraduates[12] and CILEx trainees.[13]

4.77     Integrative capacity also draws on other dimensions such as the ability of lawyers to manage (cognitive and affective) uncertainty for both themselves, and their clients (cf Flood, 1991), and on their capacity to reflect on their own reasoning strategies.


4.78     ‘Clinical skills’ in Table 4.2 can be equated with a general familiarity in law with professional legal processes and office skills, and imply a broader understanding of the professional context within which a task is located. It is notable that a number of comments within the qualitative data, particularly from CILEx members and paralegals, highlight the extent to which trainee solicitors enter the work environment with often a very limited sense of real legal work in an office environment.

4.79     Competence frameworks commonly include the ability to manage and organise files effectively, and the ability to ‘manage personal time’ (see also APLEC, 2002) to plan and deliver work efficiently and ensure punctuality. From the consumer perspective the key competence is the ability to deliver a service efficiently (Vanilla Research, 2010).


4.80     The importance of interpersonal communication skills is widely recognised in competence frameworks, and was highlighted in the LETR careers advisers’ survey as the skill most valued by legal employers, as well as one often deficient in potential recruits. Teamwork and collaboration are also highlighted in competence frameworks and valued by employers, according to the LETR careers advisers’ survey, and also by trainees (Baron, 2011).

4.81     The ability to deal with ‘difficult’ clients and others is also relevant to legal work. In studies of the experiences of pupil barristers and junior tenants, nearly 20% of junior tenants acknowledged encountering difficulties in their relationship with clients in the year following completion of pupillage (Shapland and Sorsby, 1995). 36% also reported difficult relations with chambers’ clerks during their second six months pupillage (Shapland et al, 1995), a figure that fell only marginally in the first year of tenancy (Shapland and Sorsby, 1995). The ability to deal with difficult people was also highlighted in the LETR career advisers’ survey and in the online survey, particularly by CILEx members (Chapter 2, table 2.4).

4.82     The ability to teach others is important for in-house education, mentoring and supervision (including the ability to supervise support staff), which may need to be acquired earlier, and more widely than the focus on ‘teaching skills’ might imply. Smith and Tam (1997) highlighted supervision as a specific skills gap in the NfP legal sector. The LETR research, summarised in Briefing Paper 1/2012, suggests that there is a greater awareness of the importance of quality of supervision and it is raised as a concern in the qualitative data.[14]


4.83     The affective and moral dimensions are critical to professional practice, and aspects of them are widely captured in competence frameworks – aside from the purely cognitive dimension of professional ethics and regulation. Independence and integrity are particularly valued in Briefing Paper 1/2012 and ‘honesty and integrity’ was also a highly-ranked attribute in the LETR online survey (Chapter 2, table 2.4). Respect for clients and co-workers is also commonly identified, though consumer data suggest that respect for, and empathy with, clients are areas where there are still significant gaps between expectation and reality (eg, Vanilla Research, 2010; YouGov, 2011).

4.84     Resilience (see Cooper and Dwyer, 2011; Vines 2011), which links to both emotional intelligence and the ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty (see College of Law, New Zealand, n.d.), is also perceived to be increasingly relevant within legal practice.

4.85     There is some literature on ‘comforting’ and ‘caring’ skills in legal practice (eg, Dryden Henningsen and Cionea, 2007; Bartlett and Aitken, 2009), though empathy is a more widely used, and perhaps more recognisable, term in the legal context.

4.86     Social responsibility needs to be interpreted in the light of the LSA 2007’s regulatory objectives, which, addressed as they are to the approved regulators, must shape the context within and principles by which all legal services providers operate:

  • protecting and promoting the public interest;
  • supporting the constitutional principle of the rule of law;
  • improving access to justice;
  • protecting and promoting the interests of consumers;
  • promoting competition in the provision of services;
  • encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession;
  • increasing public understanding of the citizen’s legal rights and duties;
  • promoting and maintaining adherence to the professional principles.

Each of these includes clear elements of social responsibility.

Habits of mind

4.87     Understanding the limits of one’s own competence is identified in many of the frameworks evaluated in Briefing Paper 1/2012, and is a critical component of personal risk management (see, eg, APLEC, 2002). It is sometimes referred to as a defining element of professionalism – ‘knowing what you don’t know’. Reflection in learning theory is a commitment and first step to learning from experience.

4.88     However, these skills were not particularly emphasised in the research data. Regulation too currently adopts a rather patchwork approach to self-management and reflection. In the work environment the self-evaluation process will often be formalised at entity level through appraisal and peer review; it may be supported by CPD, but the dominance of input approaches to CPD (discussed further in Chapter 6) and the risk that CPD is often driven by current needs rather than future plans may limit its role in that regard (cf Lindsay, 2012).

4.89     In the context of the vocational course (which may take place in parallel with supervised practice), intending registered trade mark attorneys are required to achieve an outcome related to reflective learning. A commitment to reflective learning appears in the SRA and IPS work-based learning frameworks as well as in the requirements for independent learning in the BSB pupillage framework. However there is no necessary scaffolding of those skills in earlier stages. The QAA Benchmark for the QLD does refer to the need for reflection, but this is not included in Schedule One to the Joint Statement. LPC outcomes similarly require students to reflect on their learning and identify learning needs, but there is no expectation that this will be explicitly assessed, and no consistent way of identifying whether such reflection has taken place. Similarly the BPTC Handbook permits providers to use personal development portfolios, but these are not in any way obligatory. It is notable that earlier attempts at getting LPC students to use e-portfolios suffered from low engagement, given the voluntary nature of the activity (Polding, 2010).

4.90     This rather ad hoc approach is not satisfactory. An emphasis on self-evaluation and self-management skills can help counteract the artificial perception that competence is ‘acquired’ in a relatively linear, additive, fashion and then done. Rather, as Eraut (2007) demonstrates, professional practice is characterised by ‘discontinuities of learning’ so that at any specific point:

  • explicit progress is being made on several of the trajectories or competencies that constitute lifelong learning;
  • implicit progress can be identified on some other trajectories; while
  • progress on others is stalled, or even regressing because of changing priorities and lack of use.

4.91     In medical education, where the use of personal development plans and training records is obligatory and far more integrated, using portable online tools, students develop the habit of reflection, and experience a consistent expectation of self-evaluation through the later stages of training and into practice. ‘Practical experience portfolios’ have also recently been introduced by the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) as a replacement for their trainee Initial Professional Development Scheme.[15] Trainee accountants studying through the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) route, architects and surveyors are all required to submit online training logs or diaries as part of their required work experience. For example, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Examination in Professional Practice and Management (Part 3), the final examination of an architectural student’s training, requires submission of completed Professional Education and Development Record (PEDR) sheets covering a minimum of 24 months’ experience.[16] The ACCA, RIBA and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) training logs are not currently carried through into professional practice, however. The use of portfolios and training logs is discussed further below, in the context of assessment.

4.92     Other habits of mind that are emphasised by employers include conscientiousness and an eye for detail (the latter was the most significant weakness in recruits reported by the careers advisers’ survey), and the willingness to ‘go the extra mile’ for clients (see Baron, 2011). The willingness to acknowledge and address errors is an area where complaints data suggest some gap between lawyer behaviour and client expectations (see, eg, Legal Ombudsman, 2012).[17] These personality attributes/habits of mind that help to make up ‘professionalism’ also figure in a number of the medical and legal competence frameworks reviewed as part of this research, reinforcing their relevance.

4.93     Taking these comparisons into account, Table 4.4 presents a re-working of Table 4.2 for the dimensions of legal competence and provides a basis from which to attain, signal and assure competence.


Table 4.3: Professional competencies in legal services (derived from Epstein and Hundert, 2002)


Dimension Attribute
Cognitive Core knowledge

Basic communication skills

Information management

Abstract problem-solving

Applying knowledge to real world situations

Using tacit knowledge and personal knowledge

Self-directed acquisition of new knowledge

Recognising gaps in knowledge

Generating questions

Using resources and digital literacy

Learning from experience

Integrative Using legal reasoning strategies appropriately

Linking legal knowledge and operational understanding of problems

Managing uncertainty
Context Understanding the professional work setting and professional work

Office skills

Relationship Interpersonal communication skills

Handling conflict

Teamwork and collaboration

Affective/moral Integrity


Emotional intelligence

Respect for Clients



Social Responsibility

Habits of mind Attention to detail

Awareness of limits of own competence

Reflection on one's own abilities, thinking, emotions and techniques

Willingness to acknowledge and correct errors


4.94     There will be numerous issues for learning and assessment, in the workplace and classroom, and for regulation. Some of these attributes may be difficult to convert into outcomes; others (eg, tacit knowledge) will be difficult to surface and capture in ways that enable allied learning and assessment; and many raise significant questions regarding appropriate assessment methodologies. As the University of Law has observed in response to the deficiencies identified in the careers advisers’ survey:

What is significant about all of the attributes… is that they do not lend themselves to assessment through the conventional means of assessment regarded as the norm by the regulators.

University of Law response to Discussion Paper 02/2012

This is an important consideration, and is returned to in the final section of this chapter.

‘Knowledge’ at the academic stage

4.95     Before leaving this section it is necessary to say something about the scope of regulation regarding the academic stage. A move to outcomes involves addressing the Foundation subjects, as proposed in both Discussion Papers 01/2012 and 02/2012.

4.96     The academic stage has played a foundational role in professional formation for barristers and solicitors and also influences the breadth of training available to CILEx members. LETR research data indicate little appetite, amongst either academics or the professions, for changes in regulation of the academic stage,[18] whether by creating a national assessment framework for entry to the professional schools, or by strengthening the role of the professional schools as gatekeepers to the profession.[19] Further regulation could reduce innovation and narrow the focus of university legal education if it forced the academic law schools to focus more specifically on preparation for vocational requirements, especially if the imposition of standardised entry testing, or an equivalent to the US Bar Examinations, created pressure on law schools to ‘teach to the test’.[20] It might also have an undesirable impact on access and diversity if it created a secondary market in ‘cram’ courses preparing students for access to professional school.

4.97     LETR research data also demonstrate that the academic stage is valued where it develops a strong foundation of substantive legal knowledge, and understanding of the social context within which law operates, as well as for the broad intellectual and critical capacities that are the hallmark of degree level education. These are all seen as pre-requisites to professional competence.

4.98     Discussion Paper 01/2012 raised the question whether regulation should continue to focus on prescribed knowledge areas or attempt some other formulation, for example based on cognitive and other skills. This would enable providers to make space in the curriculum to develop those skills in a wider range of relevant contexts. Whether a move to skills-based outcomes would significantly change the ‘core’ content of the degree may in any event be moot. A set of foundation subjects, whether the civilian division between persons, property and things, or a common law variant centred on public law, property and obligations,[21] seems to be a common feature of all legal education systems. As Table 4.4 demonstrates from a cross-section of common law jurisdictions, the existing Foundation subjects do form close to a common core.[22] This was also widely reflected in the LETR research data by respondents who saw the existing Foundation subjects as a reasonable basis for further training. Indeed, there was, if anything, a tendency amongst respondents to want to add to the Foundation subjects. Ethics and some element of company or business organisations law were the most common additional suggestions, but beyond these a wide range of other subjects were proposed.


Table 4.4: Mandatory subjects in common law degrees


England and Wales Scotland Australia India Canada
Contract Obligations [includes civil evidence] Contract Contract 1/Contract II Contract, tort and land
Tort Tort Tort and consumer protection
Land Property [real and personal] Land Land law including transfer/land law
Constitutional/HR Legal system and institutions [includes EU institutions; HR pervasive] Administrative law

Federal and state constitutional law
Constitutional law

Administrative law
Constitutional law

Administrative law
Crime Crime [includes criminal evidence] Criminal law and procedure Criminal law Criminal law
Commerce Company law Company law Commercial law
Equity and trusts Persons [trusts, succession and family] Equity Common law and equity

Application of Canadian law
Civil procedure Civil procedure and limitation
Ethics Ethics and professionalism
Evidence Evidence
Statutory interpretation Statutory interpretation
Arbitration and ADR
Family Law I/ Family Law II
Criminal procedure, youth justice and probation
Employment law
Environmental law
Human rights and international law
Legal writing and language, English


4.99     The results of the online survey, as noted in Chapter 2, showed that contract, tort, equity and business (or company) law were rated as more important than public law and criminal law, but the question did not ask whether all or any of these should be Foundation subjects on the QLD. However, a clear majority of responses to Discussion Paper 02/2012, including respondents from both academia and the professions, took the view that the current Foundation subjects are ‘about right’. As discussed in Chapter 3, respondents in focus groups in Wales suggested that at least an awareness of devolution issues should be embedded at the academic stage, or its equivalent, for students across England and Wales.

4.100     There is little rational basis on which to propose change as regards the range of subjects. The Foundation subjects should be precisely that; a minimum common grounding for professional training. At the same time, it must be recognised that the QLD outcomes at present are only broadly stated through a combination of the QAA Benchmark and the Joint Statement. This is not entirely satisfactory. In its present form the learning outcomes for knowledge and general transferable skills specified in Schedule One of the Joint Statement (see Annex III to this chapter) overlap substantially with those in the QAA Benchmark. They do not entirely replicate the Benchmark, nor are they simply ‘additional knowledge/skills’ as para. 2.vii of the Statement asserts, since they add a specific gloss in some contexts, and appear substantially narrower in others. At the very least, it is suggested that the relationship between the two statements would benefit from clarification and simplification.

4.101     Furthermore, neither provides a meaningful set of outcomes in respect of the Foundations of Legal Knowledge. The Benchmark tends to highlight skills development with only a very generic specification of knowledge, whereas the knowledge component of the Joint Statement is a loose articulation that barely functions as an aim or objective, let alone a set of outcomes.

4.102     This results in three related risks for the LSET system:

  • Absence or loss of comparability and transparency: if it is asserted that certain knowledge and skills outcomes are ‘core’ to the academic stage, then it is appropriate that achievement of those outcomes is comparable across the sector,[23] and demonstrably so. Transparency matters for both students and employers. The continuing importance of comparability has also been acknowledged recently across the higher education sector by the development of the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) – an extended diploma transcript that will give students and employers greater standardised information about an individual’s qualification, course components, and assessment (Universities UK/GuildHE, 2012).
  • Limits on flexibility and mobility: a clearer prescription of outcomes, and less emphasis on prescribing inputs, should help mobility as decisions on access and transfer (both domestic and international) can be justified more clearly by reference to the outcomes rather than vague(r) notions of ‘graduateness’ or qualification equivalence.
  • Diversity: there is a risk, highlighted by the Law Society in its response to Discussion Paper 02/2012 that employers tend to focus on ‘known brands’ (in terms of perceived high status law degrees and GDL students who are also graduates of high status institutions) partly because of uncertainties about comparability and consistency of awards. This is considered, in part, in the next section of this chapter.

4.103     Consequently the range of Foundation subjects and level of guidance in the JASB Handbook should be reviewed, with a view generally to reducing the quantity and complexity of the standards contained therein, though some further, albeit limited, prescription, of the Foundations, akin to the level of content description provided by the ‘Priestley 11’ would seem desirable.

4.104     It should be noted that, despite the general emphasis placed on legal ethics and professional values, there was no majority support for the introduction of professional ethics as a further Foundation subject for the QLD/GDL. This does not preclude the academic stage from providing an important basis for the study of professional ethics. Hence it is proposed that the QLD/GDL should include outcomes that advance an awareness and understanding of the values embedded in law, legal processes and solutions, and the role of lawyers in advancing those values. Further, it is recommended that some understanding of underlying legal values should be incorporated in the education and training of any authorised person.[24]

4.105     At the same time, institutions should not be required to devote more than the existing 180 credits to any prescribed Foundation subjects. This fits with comparable approaches internationally.[25] It is important to acknowledge that the traditional professions are now a minority career destination for law graduates, and university law schools also have their own legitimate and distinctive objectives for the degree (see, eg, Legal Services Institute 2010, 2012; cf Devlin et al, 2009), which should be respected.[26]


[1] With the exception of the ‘technical’ category which appears to have no obvious equivalent within the legal services context.

[2] Eg,


Whatever the subsequent career paths of the graduates, the CLLS wants the QLD/GDL to start the students down the path of ‘thinking like lawyers’, a process which many courses do well. From the perspective of City firms we need lawyers who can handle intellectually demanding work and who can offer clients ethically sound and legally effective solutions.

City of London Law Society submission

[3] The importance of developing and monitoring student professionalism before qualification is potentially highlighted by a study in the USA of more than 60,000 doctors over a ten-year period from 1990–2000. This found that doctors disciplined by state boards were more likely to have demonstrated unprofessional behaviour in medical school. The association was strong enough to suggest at least some link between (unprofessional) behaviour as a student and later difficulties in practice (Papadakis et al, 2008).

[4] Numeracy is already included within the QAA Benchmark, though it is not clear how widely or consistently it is addressed in the formal curriculum.

[5] A growing number of such courses are being developed in the US in response to the growing student pressures to provide more relevant education and enhance employability. Few law schools in the UK have followed suit, though two interesting examples stand out. LLM students at University College London may participate in the international ‘Law Without Walls’ programme, sponsored by the University of Miami. Students explore innovations in global legal education and practice with students from other participating law schools through weekly virtual classes and collaborative research. “The topics are interdisciplinary and wide-ranging, looking to the future in their anticipation of changes to legal practice and education within a virtual landscape” – Academics at Sheffield Hallam University are seeking to replicate this kind of approach at a local level through ‘LawSync’ which will enable students “to work on projects aimed at real-world legal services problems. They will develop viable, innovative products and services, taking advantage of technological, regulatory, and market developments” – At this point the Sheffield module has yet to run, however.

[6] See

[7] For example, where skills-based activities might be used to assess legal knowledge, there was a risk that this might introduce a degree of artificiality; one trainee legal executive thus provided an example of being asked to write a letter of advice at college, and being criticised for not including references to cases, whereas at work s/he would have been (rightly) criticised for including them.

[8] ‘Craft knowledge’ is not defined by Brown, but the term is used widely, particularly in educational studies, to describe the tacit and personal knowledge developed by a professional through daily practice. On the one hand it captures the ‘wisdom’ of practice, but on the other it constitutes knowledge that tends to be localised, uncodified and untested.

[9] Legal research training on the BVC achieved poor ratings relative to other areas of the course in the student survey conducted for the Wood Review in 2008, largely because of the perceived artificiality of assessing it as a separate subject. The Wood Report consequently recommended its deletion as an examinable subject, whilst stressing the continued importance of training in practical legal research. The LETR research phase has not obtained substantial data on the impact of this change on student perceptions.

[10] Thanks are due to the Advocacy Training Council for responding to a range of questions regarding the structures and processes of advocacy training.

[11] Response to Discussion Paper 02/2012.

[12] See, eg, Kent Law School’s response to Discussion Paper 02/2012.

[13] Eg,


How does the CILEx education system accommodate aspects such as ‘critical reasoning’ or ‘values and ethics’?

I would say that it doesn’t, really – it’s quite subject focused and seems to concentrate on the absorption and regurgitation of facts

CILEx member.

[14] Discussed later in this chapter and in Chapter 6.

[15] See further

[16] See


[18] See generally responses to Discussion Paper 01/2012.

[19] In the sense that changes to entry requirements and expectations for the BPTC or LPC can act as indirect or informal regulation of the academic stage.

[20] Society of Legal Scholars, response to Discussion Paper 01/2012.

[21] See the Association of Law Teachers response to Discussion Paper 02/2012.

[22] Note also that the comparator degrees here tend in practice to be a minimum of four years, with the exception of Canada which has a three-year postgraduate degree. Extending the normal LLB to four years, or making it a postgraduate award has not been pursued in this investigation because of the extra costs of the further degree. This would make a large impact on uptake and would be problematic on grounds of diversity. There was also very little interest shown in this approach in the survey, and other than from a small number of respondents, by most involved in the interviews and focus groups.

[23] Increasing comparability and the available public information on programmes were key reasons for the Dearing Committee requiring universities to move to an outcomes-led approach in the first place (see Dearing Report, 1997, Rec. 21).

[24] Insofar as a deeper understanding of the professional principles, and of commitments to the rule of law or to act in the public interest, where these are cascaded down to authorised persons, will be developed from an awareness of the underlying values involved.

[25] Notably in Australia and Scotland; as noted above Canada has not set a minimum or maximum amount of credit, leaving it for the law schools to determine what is sufficient to meet the criterion.

[26] This argument may hold less true for the GDL, as a specific entry route to the solicitors’ and barristers’ professions.