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Research shows value of legal work experience

A wide range of work-based environments experienced by aspiring solicitors helps them to develop the competences needed to be a solicitor, new research has found.

The research reinforces the significance of work experience in the development of aspiring lawyers.
Professor Jane Ching, Nottingham Law School

New research has found that a wide range of work-based environments experienced by aspiring solicitors, helps them to develop the competencies needed to be a solicitor.

The study, carried out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Nottingham Law School, also discovered that not one type of environment necessarily exposed students or trainees to all of the competencies. The study, Pre-qualification work experience in professional legal education, was based on an online survey to gather experiences of learning in the legal workplace, followed by in-depth interviews with 23 of the 800 respondents.

The study looked at different types of work experience beyond the traditional training contract. This included experience in clinics, law centres, sandwich degree placements, CILEx work, working as a paralegal, and vacation schemes.

The aim was to look at and compare the type of work students, trainees paralegals, CILEx members and others undertake, and to understand the skills and expertise that they develop as a result. The requirements for work-based learning in other countries and professions – including doctors, dentists, and accountants – were also examined in a literature review.

The results showed that different types of legal experience exposed would-be solicitors and CILEx members to different learning opportunities. Apart from vacation schemes, most forms of work-based experience gave them the opportunity to develop some transferable skills, for example team working.

However, not all environments allowed them to develop skills in, for example, advocacy and negotiation, dealing with real-world clients or taking responsibility for progressing client files. Most respondents were also able to see how professional ethics were tested by the working environment.

Julie Brannan, SRA director of Education and Training, said: "The report makes for interesting reading. We have already said that work-based experience will form an integral part of any new qualification system. This research shows just how important and valuable it is. It also demonstrates that competences can be developed through a range of different types of legal work experience.”

Jane Ching, Professor of Professional Legal Education at Nottingham Law School, added: "The research reinforces the significance of work experience in the development of aspiring lawyers. By looking at a variety of kinds of work experience we have been able to investigate the extent to which different competencies might be developed more strongly in different environments. It has also been illuminating to compare the training contract experience with other experiences, for example, those of senior paralegals."

The research can be found on the SRA website. A second consultation on the proposed assessment will be launched early next month.

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    Solicitors Regulation AuthorityThe SRA is the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales, protecting consumers and supporting the rule of law and the administration of justice. The SRA does this by overseeing all education and training requirements necessary to practise as a solicitor, licensing individuals and firms to practise, setting the standards of the profession and regulating and enforcing compliance against these standards. Further information is available at

    Further information on the SRA's reforms in light of the Legal Education and Training Review can be found on the SRA's Training for Tomorrow page

Research shows value of legal work experience

Published on 10 October 2016
  • Category: Press office; Nottingham Law School

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