Over 350. This is the number of pages in the LETR report. Not particularly inviting. And yet, I, a student, set myself the task of spending the day reading it. This wasn’t for the reason that it was going to dramatically increase my employability. It wasn’t necessarily relevant for my studies. And it would not get me a First. Shock horror, I was actually interested.
The report reviews Legal Education and conducted a number of studies. Academics and regulators then responded to these studies. Indeed, there is a great wealth of literature written on legal education.
Surprisingly though there is something missing from this process. As I read on through the report, I was struck by something startling. Nobody seemed to actually ask a reasonable body of students why they were completing a law degree or an LPC. Nor what their career ambitions were. Or what, if anything they felt was wrong with the system.
To be clear, 67 law students did respond to the unweighted survey according to Table 1.4. They also gave their views on whether training contracts and pupillages should be abolished completely (Table 2.3). Note here, there was no opportunity here for them to discuss amendments to the system. Students were also asked about access to information (paragraph 6.20). Table D.1 regarding the LETR research consultations overview states no current GDL students responded. There was one LLM student response and four from current BPTC students.
Surely more of an effort could have been made. I would be extremely surprised if I was the only student who had an opinion on the quality of my degree or the LPC and how the system could be reformed. Most concerning of all is that the report seems to show little concern for the number or quality of student viewpoints. No analysis is made of the student response in paragraphs 1.39 and 1.40. The fact no GDL students responded to the research consultation is footnoted with ‘Information on the GDL comes from employers and graduates rather than current students’. I, for one, do not think this is good enough. This was the biggest review of legal education in decades.
There is some irony that the report concludes we students lack basic skills. Perhaps if we were asked to give our opinion, we might have a chance to develop them.
My view on the subject is quite simple. The qualifying law degree that I am studying is a good degree and valuable. I have learnt about how to structure arguments and analyse information. These skills will be useful for practice. I am, however, slightly sceptical about the role of the LPC. This is mainly based on information from students who have been through the Course.
With regards to developing skills for the workplace, I think the report places far too much pressure on Higher Education Institutions. Perhaps this is because I was in the last of the non £9000 a year cohort, but I think students should have some responsibility. We have an excellent Law Society which runs competitions such as Negotiations and Mooting and is in charge of all Careers Events at the Faculty. If students want a job they should be able to develop some of these skills themselves.
To conclude, I present to you a seemingly radical idea. It makes sense to ask the people that are both paying for and actually going through the education what they think about it. This is what I plan to do. Academics, practitioners, politicians and others; I think you might well be surprised by both the number and the quality of responses.
This is a guest post from am amonymous student.