Master of the Rolls proposes expanded advice scheme
Work-based learning element could be integrated in legal education curriculum
Law graduates who have completed the academic and vocational stages of qualifications should be allowed to assist litigants in person under a new scheme mooted by the Master of the Rolls this week.
Sir Terence Etherton said an expanded advice scheme supported by the profession, judges, the government, and regulators would help secure access to justice for the growing number of LiPs.
Giving the 2016 LawWorks pro bono lecture, the Master of the Rolls suggested the scheme could be deployed in law centres and university law clinics. It would also give out-of-work law graduates who haven’t secured a training contract or pupillage the opportunity to gain experience.
Unlike McKenzie friends, whom Etherton MR unequivocally warned against, advisers would be supervised and covered by their providers’ professional indemnity insurance. ‘Far better such an approach than that provided by unregulated, uninsured, professional McKenzie Friends of unknown skill and training,’ he said.
The Master of the Rolls’ proposal was one of several intended, as a whole, to come up with practical solutions to address concerns about access to justice in the context of reduced legal aid.
‘My starting point here is two features of our justice system: an over-supply of law graduates who, having expended a significant amount of money on academic and vocational education, do not enter into practice … and, secondly the increase in [LiPs]as a consequence of the withdrawal of legal aid. Should we not consider how we can do two things: facilitate entry into practice of these law graduates and while so doing provide legal advice and assistance to LiPs?’ Sir Terence asked.
These graduates would provide advice as trainees registered with the university or pro bono advice centre and would only be able to do so after undertaking specific training and under supervision by qualified lawyers.
The proposal also included the suggestion that universities and legal education providers could incorporate this training into their courses. Such as development would chime with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s proposed solicitors qualifying examination. Under the ecurrent proposal, the professional stage two component would open up the possibility of work-based learning outside the current two-year training contract framework.
‘There is, it seems to me, much to be said for the proposal,’ the senior judge said. ‘It calls for detailed consideration; not least to assess its potential incorporation it into any redesign of legal education.’
Jean-Yves Gilg is editor-in-chief of Solicitors Journal