Kerry James of The College Of Law in this article reflects on some of the changes ahead in Legal Education and looks at the rationale behind the College of Law’s new Two Year Law Degree.
In 2010 the three biggest legal regulators, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and the Institute of Legal Executives Professional Standards (IPS), announced a joint review of legal services education and training.
The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) is examining education and training requirements across regulated and non-regulated legal services in England and Wales to ensure that the future system of legal education and training is effective in preparing legal service providers to meet the needs of consumers.
It expects to make its final recommendations in December; however The College of Law is already innovating to provide legal training to meet the needs of the rapidly changing legal services market.
From September we are offering students the first professional law degree for undergraduates. It’s the first LL.B with the sole aim that students learn the law in a practical, professional context: how the law affects clients, and how lawyers think about and use the law to represent clients’ interests. It is more than “learning the law”: it is more than learning how to think like a lawyer. It is learning how to be a lawyer, and enjoying the most relevant and rounded education to prepare for a professional career in law.
The two-year LL.B is being launched at our Birmingham, Chester, Guildford and London Bloomsbury centres this year and in 2013 is being extended to Bristol as well as York.
Professional degrees are not new: most degrees in medicine, engineering, dentistry, architecture and veterinary science have a professional focus. They integrate academic learning and professional skills in practical contexts.
However, the idea of a professional law degree is new. Traditionally, law degrees are about academic learning and legal analysis: professional education begins after the law degree on postgraduate programmes and in the workplace. Why? Shouldn’t students be able to take a law degree which is like a medical degree and offers an integrated academic and professional programme? We think they should.
Our law degree will be set in a practical context from the start, so students can best understand how the law applies to individuals and businesses. We will integrate important practical, professional skills – writing, drafting, oral communication – so that students develop them as they learn the law, rather than later.
Why is a professional law degree important for students? Two reasons:
First, learning a subject in a practical context is better than learning purely academically. Students more quickly see the practical application of what they are doing, as well as the theory. You can learn physics as a series of rules and solve abstract equations or you can learn and apply those rules practically: for example, designing a more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient car. Similarly, you can learn law as a series of rules and write essays about them or you can learn and apply these rules practically: for example, identifying what evidence is needed to prove a case, or drafting advice.
Second, a professional law degree will better prepare students for their career, as they will be developing – from the start – the rounded knowledge and skills required by the legal profession. It will also help them to take the steps to gain that career: identifying career options, applying for jobs, performing in interviews.
Like all law students, our students will learn to read, understand, analyse and criticise the law – these are important academic skills. They will hear about the law from expert tutors, discuss and write about the law. But in addition, we want our students to start their journey towards a professional career by:
- understanding the personal and financial considerations of individuals and businesses affected by the law
- becoming familiar with the opportunities offered by the legal profession both nationally and globally
- having access to a careers service, which is the largest service of its type dedicated exclusively to law students, and a personal mentor
- developing professional written and oral communication skills
- learning by doing, working independently and in teams – in large group sessions and workshops
- working with the law and legal documents – the contracts and forms and documents which lawyers use on a daily basis
Overall, we want students to enjoy the course and get the most from it – so it will be relevant, engaging, and offer variety, all facilitated by professional law tutors who are qualified solicitors.
The College of Law Bristol is holding open days for students to find out more on September 15, October 6, November 17 and December 8. For more information visit: http://www.college-of-law.co.uk/Want-a-law-degree/LL-B-open-days/