Training solicitors and barristers


Sir, – Bernard McCartan makes interesting observations in his letter (November 23rd) concerning the recent report of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) on legal training (“Report recommends new body to oversee legal training”, News, November 19th).

While the findings of the LSRA merit consideration, I believe Mr McCartan has oversimplified the analogy drawn with the medical profession. Medical students receive extensive clinical training in partnered teaching hospitals in the latter part of their undergraduate studies. Law degrees in this country are primarily academic and aim to provide students with a strong knowledge of the substantive law and to hone critical and analytical skills.

Students do not receive training in advocacy, procedure, drafting, professional ethics or negotiation.

While some colleges do facilitate extracurricular activities, formal instruction in these areas is not provided.

While providing a strong foundation to pursue further professional training, a law degree from an Irish college does not make one a lawyer.

That is not a criticism as such qualifications are designed purposely as research-based degrees.

Unlike undergraduate medical cohorts, a sizeable number of those who study law at third level do not intend to become practising lawyers following the completion of their studies.

I do not see a justification for making third-level institutions responsible for the professional training of lawyers nor would I envisage the various schools of law being keen to accept this responsibility.

The emergence of commercial service providers providing legal training on a for-profit basis would not be a welcome development in this jurisdiction and has been criticised in recent times in the United Kingdom.

Mr McCartan fails to take into account the significant differences between the professions of solicitor and barrister and the different types of professional training required for each. The same exists in the medical profession where surgeons and physicians receive different training.

It should be noted also that the Bar Council is not the entity responsible for the training of barristers but rather the King’s Inns, a separate institution.

If changes are to be made in how we approach legal education in Ireland it must be handled very delicately to avoid bringing about unwelcome results in the long term. – Yours, etc


Law Library,

Four Courts,

Dublin 7.