The low down

From the lecture corridor and seminar, to the casual alternatives legal professionals get pleasure from to be taught negotiating abilities and methods to work together with shoppers, the bodily world disappeared in a single day for training and coaching. The change to dependence on on-line studying was quick, however altering content material and designing a brand new fashion of supervision took longer. Pastoral care obligations should even be met. These challenges arrive forward of the brand new SQE ‘super-exam’ – designed for evaluation in managed bodily take a look at centres. And what of the price of coaching as programs transfer on-line? The value received’t essentially fall.

There’s, says Peter Liver, chief operations director at The School of Authorized Follow, ‘a recognition and acceptance that digital studying may be efficient and that it may play a big half in the way in which that legal professionals obtain their coaching sooner or later’.

Liver, who in a earlier function led on the event of training and studying on the Legislation Society, says a ‘cultural shift’ has taken place – all the higher for being ‘primarily based on expertise quite than on a notion of the digital world’. 

Covid-19 is just not the one huge challenge affecting authorized training and coaching in England and Wales. Victoria Roper, affiliate professor at Northumbria Legislation Faculty and chair of the Legislation Society’s Training and Coaching Committee, talks of ‘this excellent storm of Covid-19’ and looming ‘super-exam’ the Solicitors Qualifying Examination.

There might be ‘a a lot higher vary of choices with various value factors and it will likely be for college kids to resolve to what extent they need a face-to-face or an entirely on-line course’.  

The SQE might be phased in from September as the brand new, centralised solution to qualify as a solicitor, finally changing the Authorized Follow Course.

So to what extent will the supply of training and coaching – whether or not at schools or for the aim of constant training – proceed on-line? 

For Liver, digital studying is ‘far more accommodating’ to work-life stability – it’s not ‘prescriptive’ and it’s ‘versatile’ as a result of learners shouldn’t have to be at a specific place at a specific time. Consequently, it additionally has an ‘financial worth’ for them or the sponsoring regulation corporations.  

For Roper, digital studying has benefits in addition to disadvantages. She says that ‘it’s potential to ship high-quality training on-line’. For instance, video-recorded lectures (and workshops since final March) made accessible on-line can help with revision and profit college students with caring or parental obligations.

On the similar time, it may be ‘exhausting to get college students to have interaction. It could actually work effectively if all of them put their mics and cameras on and you may see their reactions, however it’s harder if they’re a bit shy or if they don’t seem to be totally participating’.

SQE: extra choices, however cheaper?

The Authorized Follow Course is being phased out to make manner for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination. This new qualification route might be launched by the SRA on 1 September; the primary SQE1 examination cohort might be in November 2021, adopted by the SQE2 in April 2022.

The price for sitting each SQE assessments (offered by Kaplan) is £3,980. Victoria Roper, chair of the Legislation Society’s Training and Coaching Committee, says the brand new centralised evaluation will assist to make sure high quality, however it’s ‘impossible’ candidates will try it with none preparation course. Resits will price additional.

Pen, pad and laptop

 

Below the SQE, the SRA will now not prescribe which programs candidates ought to take, leaving them higher flexibility to arrange for the assessments and full their qualifying work expertise in a manner that most accurately fits their circumstances.

‘There might be a higher vary of choices which may be potential for college kids to spend much less cash than they at the moment do in an effort to qualify, however I do suppose that for lots of scholars, by the point they pay for a great high quality course and the SQE charges, it’s not going to be an unsubstantial quantity,’ Roper says.  

 

College students ‘might theoretically educate themselves regulation’ after which sit the exams however Roper predicts ‘only a few college students are going to have the ability to try this’. There’s additionally a danger that this might doubtlessly make them much less fascinating to recruiters. ‘There’s a distinction between qualifying and getting a job,’ Roper says.

Sarah Harte, graduate recruitment and growth supervisor at world agency Dentons, says that authorized coaching and training has the potential to grow to be extra data-enhanced as a result of know-how accessible. ‘Relying on the digital studying platform, it’s potential to measure engagement to raised perceive studying kinds or gaps in data, subsequently making the expertise extra results-focused,’ she says.

For Junior Legal professionals Division chair Manda Banerji, on-line choices can have ‘vital advantages for selling variety and social mobility’, however solely ‘so long as the standard of coaching is of a excessive normal. It is usually necessary that the pricing is adjusted to mirror the decrease prices of offering programs on-line’.

Banerji provides: ‘The JLD has heard from members with considerations that some authorized coaching suppliers, which have beforehand charged a better price for London-based programs in comparison with these supplied of their regional campuses, haven’t in reality made any changes to the pricing.’

The College of Legislation is likely one of the two largest authorized training suppliers within the UK. Professor Peter Crisp, exterior professional vice-chancellor, tells the Gazette that whereas course charges stay unchanged, in gentle of challenges confronted in the course of the pandemic, ULaw has determined to waive resit charges for any college students needing to retake any evaluation till 30 September 2021.

He provides: ‘We’re offering an equal studying expertise, with college students scheduled for a similar contact hours, persevering with their research with the identical group, the identical tutors and the identical supplies. We have now made our library and studying assets accessible on-line and ensured that appointments may be booked with all assist providers together with counselling, employability, examine abilities and pupil welfare.’ The college additionally ‘operates an open-door coverage providing college students one-to-one assist with our tutors who can be found for on-line conferences’.

ULaw’s principal programs, together with the LLB and LPC, have been accessible on-line for a number of years. Final summer time the college launched its 14th ‘campus’, ULaw On-line, which adopted its 13th – and first worldwide – campus in Hong Kong in 2019. There are greater than 2,500 on-line college students within the present educational yr beginning September 2020, together with on the i-LPC (costing £13,600) from a complete of round 14,000 college students.

‘In preparation for the launch of our on-line campus, we now have spent quite a lot of time over the previous two years rethinking, researching and reviewing our pedagogical strategy to on-line studying,’ says Crisp.

Liver says that ‘wanting forward, actually the fee financial savings of the digital supply mannequin needs to be handed on to the client’. However he argues that from the supplier’s perspective, the previous yr has been ‘massively difficult’. The digital world’s many functionalities can create communities, group-working and networking, and asynchronised suggestions on progress. However this requires content material that’s specifically designed and developed to be used on-line, in line with Liver.

‘This sense that the digital world doesn’t present college students with alternatives to work together with one another isn’t truly true’

Peter Liver, School of Authorized Follow

CLP is an entirely owned UK subsidiary of the School of Legislation Australasia; the area’s large geography and sparse inhabitants have meant it embraced distant, on-line coaching earlier than different suppliers, he provides.  

‘This sense that the digital world doesn’t present college students with alternatives to work together with one another isn’t truly true; it’s simply that it’s a digital interplay ra ther than being sat collectively in a room,’ says Liver, including that it may additionally create ‘casual alternatives’. For instance, as a part of the school’s SQE programme, college students may have entry to weekly ‘surgical procedures’ and group classes the place they will chat with their supervisors. 

This goes some solution to addressing the wants of these new to the occupation. Banerji says: ‘We encourage coaching suppliers to make use of inventive strategies to encourage engagement between peer teams whereas distant working is the norm – for instance, distant velocity networking or socials.’

Lucielle Cartwright, head of organisational growth at TLT, says that many training and coaching suppliers are studying a brand new manner of delivering content material to verify it’s nonetheless participating in an internet setting.

‘We shouldn’t underestimate the time this may take,’ she says. ‘This can grow to be simpler and the pricing construction ought to at all times mirror the end-to-end answer to incorporate analysis, design, logistics and supply.’

‘We encourage coaching suppliers to make use of inventive strategies to encourage engagement between peer teams whereas distant working is the norm’

Manda Banerji, JLD

Assessments are additionally shifting on-line. Northumbria College is among the many suppliers to have used on-line ‘proctoring’, together with for LPC modules {and professional} abilities course exams prior to now yr, according to SRA necessities. The regulator relaxed its guidelines (till the tip of this educational yr, not less than) to permit on-line and distant instructing and evaluation, together with proctoring, for the LPC and PSC.   

Equally at ULaw, most college students have sat their exams on-line at dwelling since March final yr and, in gentle of this expertise, Crisp predicts ‘an enormous shift to on-line evaluation’. This consists of each proctored and unproctored on-line exams.

Crisp says: ‘If we will do it, why not others? Why, for instance, might the SRA not allow college students to sit down the SQE1 examination remotely?’

Take a look at centres

The SQE contains two phases, the primary of which is able to take a look at candidates’ ‘functioning authorized data’ utilizing a computer-based, multiple-choice take a look at. 

In January, Julie Brannan, the SRA’s director of training and coaching, stated that she remained ‘hopeful by the point of the primary sitting of SQE1 on eight and 11 November 2021, ample normality may have returned to allow the evaluation to run as deliberate [in physical test centres].’

In response to Brannan, assessing college students remotely ‘raises questions concerning the safety of the evaluation, the steadiness of web connections, digital poverty and provision for candidates with disabilities’.

Though LPC and PSC suppliers have used distant proctoring and distant assessments, Brannan stated that the ‘context of the SQE is totally different: it’s a world examination and candidates are usually not registered college students following a course of examine. However, we’re wanting carefully at strategies of delivering distant assessments and the way these might be tailored to the wants of the SQE.’

Woman books

What about studying and growth to make sure ‘persevering with competence’ (previously generally known as CPD)? How has this been affected by distant working, and can solicitors want totally different competencies to do their jobs to the usual anticipated of them?

Yvonne Burke-Garricks, head of expertise growth at Dentons, says there’s ‘no motive why the upkeep of core competencies, comparable to the availability of sound authorized recommendation, adherence to moral {and professional} requirements, delivering glorious shopper service and supportive crew work, needs to be affected by the present restrictions’.

‘For junior legal professionals, gaining ample expertise in sure competencies, comparable to advocacy, is more likely to be affected by the present restrictions,’ says Banerji, whereas noting that ‘it’s probably junior legal professionals might want to adapt their abilities to have the ability to carry out in distant settings’.

Patrick McCann, world head of studying at magic circle agency Linklaters, is upbeat concerning the expertise thus far: ‘We have now discovered that it’s potential to ship our studying and growth screen-to-screen.’

McCann talks ‘holistically’ about all sorts of studying and growth, together with ‘osmotic studying’, which happens when workers work in shut bodily proximity to their colleagues and shoppers.

‘We have now labored out methods to try this: it’s authorized technical however additionally it is abilities growth, together with negotiating and drafting abilities. We have now managed to do all of that screen-to-screen now,’ he says. ‘We’d not wish to see a wholesale return to how we now have executed issues earlier than. My prediction is that we’ll undertake a hybrid strategy.’

Totally different supply

There might be a wide range of permutations relying on the tactic of supply –screen-to-screen anytime (pre-recorded), real-time (for instance, through Zoom/Groups) or face-to-face – and the place individuals might be studying (all people at dwelling, within the coaching room or a combination of each).

For instance, ‘data switch’ comparable to technical authorized lectures, the ‘4Ps’ of shows or monetary administration ideas will probably be accessible on a screen-to-screen foundation anytime. Actions that require: collaboration (for instance the operating of a case examine, a rehearsal for an assigned pitch or project-planning an task); or constructing a cohort (a brand new associate induction, management abilities coaching, enterprise growth coaching) will probably be face-to-face. However a presentation to a gaggle of crucial shoppers may be executed screen-to-screen in actual time.

McCann says there can even be a much bigger deal with ‘workflow administration’, together with methods to handle groups and preserve productiveness. There might be a higher emphasis on individuals, together with how ‘you improve connections, the way you create a crew consistency and the way you preserve morale when you find yourself not all in the identical place’, in line with McCann. ‘Resilience and psychological well being content material’ will proceed, whereas profession growth coaching will shift in focus to assist workers preserve ‘visibility’.

At Dentons, ‘CPD-related coaching has already modified on account of distant working and, virtually in a single day, we went from 90% in-person classroom studying to 100% digital studying,’ Burke-Garricks says.

The agency is now utilizing a variety of strategies to make sure all its legal professionals and enterprise assist professionals are persevering with to put money into persevering with competence. From the outcomes of an inside survey, the agency launched a ‘digital studying collection’ consisting of sensible 90-minute workshops on probably the most requested matters.

‘We keep away from early morning and lunchtime classes as we all know these instances may be tough for these with caring obligations, or wish to take a stroll and get some recent air,’ says Burke-Garricks.

Screenshot 2021-03-11 at 14.44.01

TLT’s Cartwright notes that many hours spent in an internet workshop are ‘not conducive to an important studying expertise. We have now subsequently delivered our growth programmes throughout plenty of shorter classes, factoring further time for smaller group work, and in addition lowered the variety of individuals attending so relationships may be inbuilt an internet setting.’

The agency has redesigned plenty of core abilities modules for on-line supply and centered on the talents required, in addition to variations wanted for working remotely. These embody constructing relationships and time administration.

Caroline White-Robinson, head of data and growth at Shoosmiths, says distant working has made CPD-related coaching ‘simpler’ in some respects as classes are recorded and assets ‘curated’ onto content material sharing platforms. ‘The problem might be for anybody who lacks the self-discipline required for private growth,’ she says.

All matters are actually delivered in 4 methods: a set of assets referring to the subject, a workshop, a reflective drop-in session with an knowledgeable and a take-home exercise that may be shared with groups. There are additionally supplies that may be accessed on Shoosmiths’ studying administration system, supporting studying and growth at a time that’s finest for the learner.

However White-Robinson additionally highlights that higher emphasis on digital studying ‘would require a lot better mentoring, teaching and assist for learners’. Thus the prices could enhance, simply as the necessity to pay for journey or lodge lodging disappears.  

For his half, Liver predicts that in 5 or 10 years’ time, ‘the overwhelming majority of coaching for solicitors might be offered in a digital setting, notably for postgraduate training’.

McCann is sanguine concerning the future: ‘I’m actually fairly excited as to what the chances is likely to be, and am far more assured than I’d have been a yr in the past.’ 

 

Marialuisa Taddia is a contract journalist