In Practice: Fusion, training, renewals and a Charter

Back to a slightly fuller In Practice this week:

One of the stories that I would have mentioned in last week's In Practice post but for the uncertainties of the Law Society Gazette website was the speech by the Law Society President John Wotton to the Saïd Business School in Oxford, in which he visited a subject that I have touched upon here before, i.e. fusion of the two halves of the profession. In a speech entitled Fission or Fusion, he expressed the belief that the division between solicitors and barristers will "wither away" as a result of the reforms set in motion by the Legal Services Act, and said that he thought it was "inevitable" that the professions will "need to revisit the question whether [they] should continue to be separately trained, represented and regulated".

Not everyone agrees that such a future is inevitable. One (unsurprisingly anonymous) commenter to last week's Gazette story expressed the view that: "If anyone thinks the Bar is going to do other than look after its own, they are barking mad."

Notwithstanding that, however, the Gazette reported yesterday that the chair of the Bar Standards Board Baroness Deech is actually thinking along similar lines to Wotton, at least when it comes to training. In a speech to students at Oxford University last week she proposed that barristers and solicitors should share most of their training, saying that the new structures in which lawyers can practise, and the severe shortage of pupillages, have called into question the way both branches of the profession should be trained. Her idea is that 'solicitors and barristers could do most of the core professional training together and then branch out to the bar or solicitor side towards the end' (quite where the branch should be located is not clear, but obviously somewhere in what is now the vocational stage). Such a change, she said, 'would help those uncertain which branch of the profession to train for, as well as those who realise that they made the wrong choice'.

Meanwhile, turning to more prosaic matters, the SRA has reported that it is clearing up its backlog of online practising certificate renewal applications, although if I read the report correctly, as of last Friday only 7.5% of applications had been completed, which doesn't seem much to me, given that the deadline is the 21st February (the 13th February for those whose names commence with the letters A to D). For an account of one solicitor's experience of using the new system, see this letter that was published in the Gazette yesterday.

And finally, congratulations are in order for the Institute of Legal Executives, which received a Royal Charter last week. ILEX has thus become CILEX.