Training solicitors and barristers
Sir, – The recent proposals to reform the training of solicitors and barristers are welcome and long overdue (“Report recommends new body to oversee legal training”, News, November 19th).
While the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LRSA) has taken over some of the powers of the Law Society and the Bar Council, these two bodies are still responsible for a series of important and conflicting functions. An analogy would be if the Medical Council, in addition to controlling registration and discipline in the medical profession, also carried out the representative functions of the Irish Medical Organisation, and provided the only registrable qualification available to doctors in Ireland, while controlling the total number of doctors allowed to practise.
Having been involved in the regulation of a number of health professions, I believe firmly that what is needed in legal education is a clear separation of functions. The provision of legal qualifications for both solicitors and barristers should be the business of the institutes of higher education.
The LSRA should lay down minimum criteria for legal qualifications and should approve the facilities and examinations of the colleges. Any graduate would then be eligible to register with the Law Society or the Bar Council, as appropriate.
The colleges have long experience in producing professionals (engineers, doctors, dentists, teachers, pharmacists, architects, etc) trained in both the practical and theoretical aspects of their professions and, as they already provide law degrees, would merely need to modify and expand their curriculums.
The resultant ending of the closed shop might lead to a shake-up of legal services in Ireland, but there are probably few outside the legal professions who would find that unwelcome. – Yours, etc,