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Influencing entry level legal education – your chance to shape the future

8 February, 2019

Claire Richardson, CLC Deputy Director of Authorisations and member Legal, Accounting and Finance T-Level design panel

I’ve always felt it was a privilege to be involved in education and training, and the design and implementation of it, especially national government led programs. Why? Well, because it’s how as a country we shape and develop our youth and feed the demand for suitable skilled and qualified candidates for our businesses. Educationalist have not always got that right and too often national skills initiatives start with the best of intentions and fall short of delivering their most valued promises. But, I think that might just be about to change.

Last year my privileged access to the world of qualification design was boosted when I became a member of a government appointed panel of legal professionals. We were tasked with designing the occupational specification for a new Technical Level qualification (T Levels) in Legal, Accounting and Finance.

T Levels will be a direct alternative to A Levels and whereas an A Level is strictly academic, the T Level combines academic and commercial concepts. Its object is to turn out work ready young people. The sort you might readily consider employing. During study T Level students will be encouraged, through the qualifications content and structure to make more diverse and informed choices about their future careers. It’s a tough ask.

A Levels are embedded in our national psyche – schools, students, parents and employers are all extremely familiar and comfortable with them. So, are A Levels the right choice for every young person? Well, for the most part young people use taking A Levels to put off into the long grass making their first career choice and it’s comfortable to stick with the familiar surroundings of school or college before going to University. It’s established, it works, so why change it? Well, A Levels don’t work for everyone. Especially, if you’re a young person looking to get into work. And, therein lies a whole bundle of other of challenges. Work! You haven’t learnt anything that will help you to land your first meaningful job. You don’t know how business works. You don’t know what type of job roles are out there and you have no knowledge of industry. Employers, well they typically don’t want you because you’re clueless about their business and the services they offer.

T levels aim to change this. The T level (Legal) intentionally does this by making more visible all the various routes to qualify as lawyer or legal technician. It’s not trying to replace A Levels or that established University pathway. But, long gone are the days when a purely academic mode of study was the only way to full fill an ambition to become a legal professional. The CLC route has flourished and developed in exactly this way. So why not bring the concept in earlier with schools and colleges?

T Levels will set aside the concept that Law is taught as a sequential set of topics unrelated in practise to the day to day provision of modern legal services. T levels ask, “how about teaching law in a format that informs and equips young people to become one of the many varied and valuable types of specialist lawyers, those lawyers who touch people’s everyday lives.” And more importantly, T Levels set to shape the teaching of law so that young people develop a broader foundation of legal knowledge underpinned by a commercial understanding of the legal services market.

This is why, although not entirely unbiased, I am incredibly excited for the legal profession when in 2021 the new T level for Law will be offered to 16-17 year olds as part of the national curriculum. It will likely be one of the most formidable changes to the future shape of level legal education and training, shifting the perceptions and aspirations of students and their parents that would otherwise dismissed being capable of accessing a career in law. The ultimate advantage for the legal services market. Well, surely its students that are equipped with a combination of knowledge and skills that’s have been purposefully designed for modern business practises.

The Institute of Apprenticeships is hosting the national consultation seeking the views of legal professionals and law firms on the proposed outline content for the T Level in Legal. The consultation is open now and will run to midnight on Tuesday 26 February 2019 and focuses on testing the appropriateness of the course content suggested for three areas:

  1. core Professional Services Content covering generic topics related to Legal, Accounting and Finance sectors;
  2. core Legal Content covering generic legal concepts; and
  3. 5 groups of Legal Specialisms covering an introduction to grouped legal services, such as specialism 3Private Client, comprising Conveyancing, Probate and Family Law.

Responding to the consultation is a great way to influence the future of entry level legal education and training. In addition to giving your feedback please feel free to share the link with your networks and encourage more valuable responses.

The consultation can be accessed here