Behind the doors of the Law Society Education Centre.
- In November 2018, the Law Society published the Peart Commission Report, developed by an expert group chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart of the Court of Appeal.
- The report contains 30 recommendations setting out a vision for the future of solicitor training in Ireland.
- The Law Society’s vision is to train 21st century solicitors who will meet and exceed the exacting requirements of their clients and their firms.
Since the doors of the new Education Centre at the Law Society of Ireland at Blackhall Place, Dublin 7, opened in 2000, more than 8,500 trainee solicitors have qualified and joined the profession.
Following the recent publication of the Peart Commission Report, which sets out the Law Society’s vision for the future of solicitor training, the Society has put together the most comprehensive picture to date of solicitor training in Ireland.
“Last year 423 new Irish solicitors qualified through the Law Society’s training programme,” said Law Society of Ireland Director General Ken Murphy “Annually, there are around 1,200 trainee solicitors in various stages of the two-year qualification programme”.
“These are the solicitors of the future who will advise us on the major milestones of our lives and businesses.”
Training days: the path to qualification
There are six key steps on the path to qualification as a solicitor in Ireland (additional information is contained in the links):
- Preliminary examination (for non-law graduates)
- FE-1 entrance examination
- Finding a training contract
- In-office training
- Professional Practice Course
- Admission to the Roll of Solicitors
“From the time a trainee solicitor begins the professional practice course (PPC) they are usually qualified and admitted to the Roll of Solicitors within about 2.5 years. This incorporates in-office training and seminar-based training here at Blackhall Place.”
“Our programmes here at Blackhall Place are unusual in that they are almost all delivered by practising solicitors who are experts in their own areas of practice. Our associate faculty includes solicitors from large commercial firms, solicitors working for the State, general practitioners and in-house lawyers. We currently have in the region of 1,200 solicitors teaching for us; that means that more than 10% of all practising solicitors are involved in education the next generation of the profession.”
Distinctive features of education at the Law Society
Education at the Law Society has several distinct features:
- A holistic model of education: the Law School’s culture of wellbeing has been carefully crafted and has been used as an international reference by other educational institutions. Modules on wellbeing, resilience and life skills are taught alongside the teaching of law and legal procedure. This is combined with a specially-designed counselling programme, in which over 50% of trainees participate.
- Award-winning use of technology: All trainee solicitors are given iPads to use on the PPC, and much of the teaching uses interactive eBooks, quizzes and other educational applications. Since 2015, the Law School has been accredited as an “Apple Distinguished Educator” since 2015; the first professional educator in the world to receive the accreditation.
- Small-group education: Over 60% of all education is provided in small tutorial or skills groups of between 4 and 15 trainees working on legal or skills problems together. This interactive model of education requires students to prepare in advance and direct their own learning.
- Practice-focussed route to qualification: all teachers are solicitors or other experts in their field of practice. This, combined with the in-office training element of qualification and access to a modern, specially designed Mock Courtroom in the Education Centre, focuses trainees on issues of practice and procedure relevant to life in a busy firm, working for the State or within a corporate in-house legal team.
Key trends and changes
There are now more names than ever on the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland – over 18,000 – and the profession has changed substantially in recent years.
The graph below shows the number of trainee solicitors entering PPC (I & II) since 2000.
“Changes in the profile of our trainees have been at the forefront of the changing face of the profession generally,” explains Mr Murphy.
“Each year up to 25% of our trainee solicitors on the Professional Practice Course are not law graduates – this is one of the lesser-known aspects of becoming a solicitor,” highlight Mr Murphy.
“The Law Society has also been successfully operating an Access Scholarship Programme since 2001.”
Future-proof solicitor training: the Peart Commission Report
In November 2018, the Law Society published the Peart Commission Report, developed by an expert group chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart of the Court of Appeal. The report contains 30 recommendations setting out a vision for the future of solicitor training in Ireland.
The Commission’s recommendations fall under three main themes:
- Increasing access to the profession,
- Innovation in education, and
- Streamlining the current educational model.
“The Law Society’s vision is to train 21st century solicitors who will meet and exceed the exacting requirements of their clients and their firms.”
“Implementing the Peart Commission recommendations will have several benefits.”
“It will further increase access to the profession for trainees across diverse educational, professional and socio-economic backgrounds and ensure the Law Society maintains its prominent position as an innovative professional legal educator globally.”
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