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)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
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

Next steps for legal education and training in England and Wales

Morning, Tuesday, 29th June 2021

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

This conference will assess the future of legal education and training in England and Wales, as well as ongoing competence in the profession.

The seminar takes place at a time of significant changes in the pathways to qualification for solicitors and barristers, with the introduction of the new SQE system and new bar training courses.

Delegates will look at what the new courses mean for law as an attractive and accessible profession, and how they will support the development of new skills needed for the future.

Overall, areas for discussion include:

  • the new qualification route for solicitors and new barrister training courses
  • expanding routes to professional engagement and supporting progression 
  • ongoing competence in the legal profession

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the MoJ; DfE; the Government Equalities Office and DCMS.

The agenda

  • The state of play for legal education and training and key priorities for ongoing competence in the profession
  • Next steps for academic qualifications - the introduction of the SQE and recent changes to the BPTC
  • Improving access to the profession, alternative routes to qualification, and entry into the job market
  • Facilitating effective continued professional development across the legal profession

The discussion in detail:

The new qualification route for solicitors:

  • challenges in design - with multiple choice assessments and practical legal skills tests covering client interviews, advocacy, case analysis and legal research
  • opportunities - the potential for course providers to adapt to the new qualification more easily, and to increase remote learning and the number of online education providers offering on-demand and fast-track courses
  • assessment - reform to the system for solicitor training, and its implications for modernising examination methods and improving access for prospective lawyers
  • fees - cost effectiveness, with exam fees set at £3,980 before adding provider training costs

New barrister training courses:

  • operation - early indications on how the courses are operating
  • flexibility - whether changes will succeed in making courses more flexible, accessible and affordable to a wider range of people as intended
  • benefits and uptake - of the newly approved pathways to becoming a barrister, including integrated academic and vocational, and through apprenticeship

Expanding routes to professional engagement:

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

Supporting progression:

  • preparing aspiring barristers and solicitors for competitive appraisal and selection processes, and supporting the provision of fair trainee salaries

Ongoing competence in the legal profession:

  • regulation:
    • considering early findings from the LSB’s ongoing work looking at whether the legal regulators have the appropriate frameworks in place to ensure professional competence throughout the careers of those that they regulate
    • assessing how competence is currently measured in the sector
  • ensuring competence - whether the current status quo should remain in place, and potential new approaches,  with the legal profession having no regular formal assessment of professionals, unlike in professions such as medicine
  • meeting the needs of consumers - if consumers currently receive enough guidance on what to expect from legal services, and what further checks could be put in place to ensure public confidence

The background:

  • the new SQE system - with its final design now approved by the Legal Services Board, and which will be assessed through a single, broad exam rather than permitting student electives, and require a minimum of two years qualifying work experience (QWE)
    • introduction - to be implemented in September 2021 to replace the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC)
    • aims - consistent evaluation across all academic solicitor training routes, increasing competition and innovation in universities, and widening access to the legal profession
    • approval by the LSB last October - following an extension to the initial 28-day decision period to allow further enquiries, with its assessment concluding that changes should have a positive impact on regulatory objectives set out in the 2007 Legal Services Act
    • structure - with SQE1 testing legal principles via multiple choice assessments, and SQE2 assessing practical legal skills such as advocacy and interviewing
    • concerns - that the absence of course loans could undermine the objective of improving access to legal education and social mobility
  • identified concerns - which the SRA is required to address, including:
    • to monitor the impact of the SQE and conduct a review within two years of its implementation
    • to investigate underlying reasons why candidates from some protected minority backgrounds underperformed in SQE pilots
    • publishing guidance for students on the different available SQE training options and performance data for SQE assessments, in order to demonstrate transparency
    • additional safeguards around QWE to prevent poor treatment of candidates, and further details regarding enforcement for candidates and firms
  • bar training courses:
    • introduction this academic year of courses approved by the Bar Standards Board from a number of academic providers
    • intended as an alternative pathway to being called to the Bar, and expected to be offered by more providers in the future
  • ongoing competence in the legal profession:
    • with the Legal Services Board (LSB) currently undertaking work looking at approaches to assuring competence throughout a legal career
    • aimed at understanding if there are any gaps in the system or areas of concern to be addressed
    • the LSB is expecting to publish its work prior to the seminar, and open a formal consultation in the second half of this year

Policy officials attending:

Places have been reserved by officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; the Department of Education; the Government Equalities Office and the Ministry of Justice.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from 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 specialist media.

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

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript 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 Speakers

Chris Nichols

Director of Policy and Regulation, Legal Services Board

Julie Brannan

Director, Education and Training, Solicitors Regulation Authority


Sir Robert Neill MP

Chair, Justice Select Committee

Lord Brennan QC

Senior Associate Member of Matrix Chambers


Sarah Chambers

Chair, Legal Services Consumer Panel

Natasha Pearman

Managing Associate, Mishcon de Reya and Founder, Free School Meals Club

Mark Neale

Director General, Bar Standards Board

Claire Debney

Co-Founder and Director, MOSAIC Collective

Jo Sidhu QC

Vice-Chair, Criminal Bar Association

Katrina Watson

Senior Manager, Reed Smith

Linda Ford

Chief Executive Officer, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx)

Professor Nigel Spencer

Professor in Education Innovation and Professional Practice, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Peter Crisp

Pro Vice-Chancellor, External, University of Law

James Catchpole

Associate Dean (Postgraduate and Professional Degree Programmes), City Law School