Westminster Legal Policy Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

The future of legal education & training in England and Wales

Morning, Wednesday, 11th November 2020

Online Conference

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will assess the future of legal education and training in England and Wales.

Key stakeholders will examine significant changes in the pathways to qualification for solicitors and barristers, looking at:

  • new courses and qualifications, and their introduction and implementation
  • what they mean for law as an attractive and accessible profession
  • how they support the development of new skills and use of technology that will be needed by lawyers of the future

The seminar will be an opportunity to consider the SRA’s recent announcement of the final SQE design and introduction date subject to approval this summer by the Legal Services Board, which will be assessed through a single, broad exam rather than permitting student electives, and detailing transitional arrangements for existing students and trainees.

The agenda:

  • The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) and next steps for implementation
  • Introducing the new barrister training courses - progress and remaining concerns
  • The challenges of implementing the SQE and the changes to barrister training so far - knowledge and skills development, and opportunities offered by the new qualifications
  • Improving training and access to the legal profession - addressing costs, promoting the law as a career option, and expanding routes to becoming a lawyer
  • Legal education in England and Wales in an international context: preparing students for work at international law firms
  • Modernising education for new sectors and the future role of technology - legal services for new business models, utilising innovative technology, and improving digital and remote learning

The background to the discussion:

  • The new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) system due to be implemented in 2021, with the aim of:
    • replacing the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC)
    • providing a consistent evaluation across all academic routes of solicitor training
    • increasing competition and innovation in universities for offering legal education courses
    • widening access to the legal profession
  • The final decision by the Legal Services Board (LSB) - expected before this conference - on whether to:
    • approve the new qualification following a series of pilots, or
    • ask the SRA to make further revisions
  • Concerns from some in the sector, and from the Justice Select Committee, on the structure of the qualification - particularly the impact of the removal of a written skills test and its replacement with a multiple choice format for SQE1
  • A new range of bar training courses for those seeking to qualify as a barrister, approved by the Bar Standards Board to replace the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which are expected to:
    • be available as of September 2020
    • provide an option to pause studies and take on paid work
  • Concerns from some in the sector that stringent application processes for some new bar training courses - and their limiting of places - could lead to a two-tier system
  • The Bar Standards Board’s report showing a record number of students enrolled onto the BPTC in 2018 and less than half of students from 2014-2018 obtained a pupillage by 2019, with a large disparity in outcomes from those who attended top 10 universities compared with those qualifying from other law schools
  • The ongoing COVID-19 health emergency and its impact on university participation, with some students from this year’s BPTC cohort raising concerns regarding home exams discriminating against those who require reasonable adjustments and breaks

The discussion in detail:

The new qualification route for solicitors:

  • challenges that have been voiced regarding the design of the new SQE which, if approved by the Legal Services Board, will be comprised of:
    • SQE1, with two 180 question multiple choice assessments testing knowledge of core subjects currently taught on law degrees and the LPC
    • SQE2, with over 15 practical legal skills tests covering client interviews, advocacy, case analysis and legal research across five practice contexts
  • opportunities presented by the new SQE, which include:
    • the possibility of allowing course providers to adapt to the new qualification more easily
    • its potential to increase the amount of remote learning and the number of online education providers offering on-demand and fast-track courses
  • reform to the assessment system for solicitor training - and its implications for:
    • modernising examination methods
    • improving access for prospective lawyers
    • monitoring cost effectiveness

New barrister training courses - looking at their introduction in September, including:

  • early indications from how the courses are operating
  • whether changes will succeed in making courses more flexible, accessible and affordable to a wider range of people
  • the benefits and uptake of the four newly approved pathways to becoming a barrister, which are: three-step, four-step, integrated academic and vocational, and through apprenticeship

Expanding routes to professional engagement - looking at:

  • solicitor apprenticeships and supporting legal education at sixth form and secondary school level - and improving the attractiveness of the legal profession as a career option
  • accommodating changing learning habits
  • growing and improving industry training during studies
  • promoting diversity and supporting the inclusion of disadvantaged groups

Supporting progression, including:

  • best practice for preparing aspiring barristers and solicitors for competitive appraisal and selection processes - and supporting the provision of fair trainee salaries
  • the impact of changes to legal training in an international context - and preparing students for work at international law firms

Working with innovative technology - with discussion expected on next steps for:

  • adopting digital platforms to prepare for legal practice
  • expanding virtual learning to support education during COVID-19 and beyond
  • utilising AI and data science
  • preparing students for new business models
  • what can be learnt from international approaches

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

Overall, we expect speakers and other participants to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials, legal institutions and examination boards, professional training bodies and legal service providers, universities and legal academics, local government, charities and consumer groups, together with reporters from the national and trade media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Professor Thom Brooks

Dean & Chair in Law and Government, Durham University

Keynote Speakers

Chris Nichols

Director of Policy, Legal Services Board

Julie Brannan

Director, Education and Training, Solicitors Regulation Authority

Professor Thom Brooks

Dean & Chair in Law and Government, Durham University

Mark Neale

Director General, Bar Standards Board


Lord Low of Dalston

John Howell MP

Member, Justice Committee


Vicky Purtill

Director, Authorisation and Supervision, CILEx Regulation

Caroline Strevens

Chair, Association of Law Teachers, and Head of Portsmouth Law School

Dr Giles Proctor

CEO, The College of Legal Practice

Cordella Bart-Stewart

Director and Founding Member, Black Solicitors Network

Charlotte Parkinson

Chair, Junior Lawyers Division, and Associate, Addleshaw Goddard

Kevin G Mulcahy

VP of Education & Community Programs, Neota Logic, and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown Law

Patrick McCann

Global Head of Learning, Linklaters LLP

Laura Pinkney

Head of Legal Advice Centre, Nottingham Law School

Professor Andrea Nollent

Vice-Chancellor and CEO, The University of Law

Ben Perry

Partner, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Lynda Gibbs

Dean, The Inns of Court College of Advocacy

Rebecca Williams

Professor of Public Law and Criminal Law, University of Oxford