23 September 2019

Legal Education and Training Review (LETR): next steps

The Bar Standards Board has set out a framework for the development of its approach to legal education and training, following the publication of the Legal Education & Training Review (LETR) report in June 2013.

The LETR report was commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), ILEX Professional Standards and the BSB; the most significant cross-sector review in recent times. Amongst its 26 recommendations, the report identified a number of systemic challenges both for regulators, and for others involved in the education and training of legal professionals.

Whilst the report draws a general conclusion that the existing framework meets current needs for competent practice, it points to significant change in the market for legal services that must find appropriate response in the training of future barristers, solicitors and legal executives.

The BSB has reviewed the conclusions and recommendations of the report, alongside other developments in its approach to regulation, and evidence from current training requirements for the Bar. Significant change has already been brought into effect. In 2012, centralised assessments for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) were introduced. In 2013, we established a test to ensure that those embarking on the training had the aptitude to complete it successfully.

The BSB will take an approach to education and training that is structured to ensure that future training requirements

  • prepare trainees for competent practice at the outset of their career;
  • promote innovation in teaching and learning;
  • offer flexibility in the pathways to qualification for the Bar or elsewhere;
  • minimise barriers to access to the profession, and
  • ensure ongoing competence throughout a practitioner's career.

Six programmes will be developed:

  • Developing a competency framework for barristers
  • Aligning the Bar Training Regulations (BTRs) to modern regulatory standards
  • Establishing an outcomes-focused approach to continuing professional development
  • Sharing data to support our regulatory objectives in education & training
  • Improving access routes to the profession
  • Collaborative development of Academic Stage regulation

Initial development of these programmes will take place in the winter of 2013 and spring of 2014; further information on our approach and our priorities for each will be published during that period.

A. Developing a competency framework for barristers

The BSB will bring together a systematic description of the knowledge and skills required by the practising barrister. This will build upon important groundwork that has already been undertaken, and align with best practice established elsewhere. Competency frameworks are well-developed tools for identifying the capabilities required for effective performance in a job. Many professions have now established such frameworks to guide the preparation of entrants and to guide individuals and their employers in maintaining their competence through work-based learning and CPD.

A robust competency framework can be cross-referenced to the existing academic, vocational and work-based stages of training. It will provide a valuable tool to inform future development in each area, addressing the content-related recommendations of LETR and other, more specific needs within the barristers' profession.

B. Aligning the Bar Training Regulations to modern regulatory standards

The BSB has committed to reform of the Bar Training Regulations (BTRs), consistent with the wider approach to regulation now being adopted across its regulatory activity, and to conform with the new Code of Conduct in particular. The LETR highlights the importance of setting a framework to promote innovation and flexibility of pathways to qualification, which will equally inform the approach taken.

C. Establishing an outcomes-focused approach to continuing professional development

The LETR places special emphasis upon post-qualification training, and the BSB has made progress in developing a scheme that meets the requirements set out in the review, the details of which will be subject to consultation in 2015.

D. Sharing data to support our regulatory objectives in education & training

The LETR calls for regulators "to gather and make available key data and information that will reduce information gaps, support decision-making by prospective entrants, consumers and employers, and increase the effective market regulation of LSET". Short of establishing new cross-sector institutions to address the need, there is much that regulators can do independently and collaboratively, and the BSB will make this a particular focus in the next three years.

The BSB is investing in the development of its evidence-gathering to support the implementation of wider regulatory reform, with appropriate investment being made and organisational processes being developed to support the effective gathering, management, analysis and dissemination of such data.

E. Improving access routes to the profession

The LETR identifies access and diversity as important concerns for the future of legal education, recalling its significance within the Regulatory Objectives. With no recommendations made that specifically and exclusively address this need, the LETR relies upon a call for equality and diversity to be addressed in the implementation of change across legal education and training. For the BSB, this will require a clear-sighted approach in mapping the valid routes to qualification, and exploring opportunities to integrate further the post-academic stages of training.

F. Collaborative development of Academic Stage regulation

A number of the recommendations of the LETR impinge upon the content of the Qualifying Law Degree and Graduate Diploma in Law, the scope of which is defined within a Joint Statement agreed between the SRA and the BSB. We will work with the SRA to reassess both the content and wider approach to regulation of the Academic Stage, taking account of the wider development of quality assurance in Higher Education and the role of the Quality Assurance Agency in particular.