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Consumer panel attacks ‘GP-style’ training of lawyers

The legal services consumer panel has strongly attacked the GP-style training of lawyers in its response to the call for evidence by the LETR.

21 May 2012

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“The GP-style qualification model fails to respond to a market which is hugely varied in terms of its provider base and range of activities,” the panel said.

“It is impossible for a single qualification to prepare an individual for the sheer diversity of roles they might, perhaps much later, come to occupy.

“It is in danger of providing adequate preparation for nothing instead of providing a readiness to tackle anything – the principle to which it aspires.”

Instead, the panel backed a ‘modular approach’ where those approved to practise would gain a limited permission to provide certain legal services, but authorisation to provide others would be granted separately.

Lawyers could be separately authorised to conduct work of differing complexity within a single legal area; for example, by adopting the tiered approach adopted by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner.

The consumer panel said that, under its preferred approach, the professional titles of solicitor and barrister would “lose meaning”.

The panel went on: “The professional titles, such as solicitor and barrister, have powerful brand appeal for consumers and strongly influence their choice of legal adviser.

“One benefit of them is that consumers can tell regulated and unregulated providers apart, but a significant downside is that they create misleading distinctions between regulated providers.

“For example, a solicitor is likely to be seen by the average consumer wishing to buy a home as being more qualified than a licensed conveyancer for this task, but both have demonstrated they are sufficiently competent to perform the role.”

The panel said a “single regulatory badge” was needed to avoid creating a new regulatory landscape which is just as confusing as the current one.

“A single regulatory badge should not be read as meaning a single legal regulator; that is for a separate debate. There could still be multiple regulators for individual legal activities, but there is a need for a common easily recognisable and neutral symbol from which the public can derive clear meaning.”

The consumer panel said the “hub of our vision” was for an activity-based system of regulation, where approved regulators authorised regulated legal entities (RLEs) which allocated work to “regulated legal advisers” (RLAs).

RLAs would be separately authorised to perform different activities and this would be shown on their practising certificates.

They would undertake CPD “within a reformed framework” and, “at least for higher-quality risk activities”, be periodically reaccredited.

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