Making the Right Investment: How to Choose your Legal Education Provider(s)​

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Author: Lynette Smith, Brabners

This article will guide decision makers in making informed decisions about selecting the right legal education provider(s), helping them to understand how to align investments with their needs and budget.

As we all navigate a new legal education landscape, graduate recruitment and early careers teams are seeking guidance from all corners of the industry to steer our early talent and firms in the right direction.

Supporting our young professionals is a gift — they’re entrusting us with their education, learning, development and careers. With great power comes great responsibility — and choosing the right legal education provider is imperative. 

As with any good relationship, looking for behaviours that align with your values ensures long term achievement and success — both for your firm and young talent. 

Yet as many pathways to the profession open up and the evolution of the profession progresses, how do we ensure that providers meet our needs? 

Supporting the needs of individual learners

Today’s candidates request more — both from us as employers and their education providers — and rightly so. They’re entrusting us with their professional development and want to have confidence that we’ve made the right decision and done our due diligence in our education providers. Their needs are changing, how they learn is different and their expectations are evolving.

We’ve seen this change over recent years. Yet this isn’t solely down to the evolution of how, where and when we learn. It’s also because our learners are different — each and every one of them. No longer is a blanket approach to teaching acceptable. A good education provider must be adaptable, accessible and flexible in its approach to support the needs of individual learners and the challenges of their evolving programmes.

Student-focused approach

Education providers must also consider the needs of the firms they partner with. In a time-sensitive industry such as the legal profession, it’s imperative that progression is tracked, monitored and fed back to employers to ensure that successful completion is timely and meets the resource needs of the firm. A provider that is responsive and communicative understands the bigger picture of what we’re all trying to achieve — positive progression for their learners and achievement for our colleagues.

When learners’ needs are differentiated throughout their mainstream education, such adaptations and flex should be shown throughout their legal education and beyond. 

This student-focused approach ensures that learners feel supported and reassures them that their firm has taken the time to invest in their education and their future. This creates an inclusive learning environment and a strong learning culture. Aligned education providers will put learners’ needs front and centre.

Addressing the skills gap

A firm may only have limited evidence of a learner’s journey. School and university education qualifications usually suffice — but the demands on independent learning and time management differ at this level of education. 

So as a learner navigates a potential new style of learning when preparing for a brand-new assessment process such as the SQE, how is the provider ensuring that these skills are addressed too? 

To achieve successful outcomes, overcoming the skills gap is just as important for the education provider as it is for the employer. Developing skills in self-awareness, taking ownership for learning, building resilience and problem solving are key to providing a holistic education for the profession. 

Education providers should support learners in being open-minded during their education journey, thinking laterally and problem-solving with innovative, creative solutions. They should also be proactive in developing the necessary behaviours for the profession to deal with the challenges of both the education programme and their future profession, as Dan Kayne has done so successfully. His O-Shaped vision addresses the need for change by creating a progressive programme that supports the development of well-rounded legal professionals.

Proactive guidance for employers

Given the range of pathways now available to access the profession, it’s important to ensure that information, advice and guidance is accessible to you as an employer at all times. 

The infancy of the SQE has come with its challenges and we see changes made following each exam period. It’s fair to say that the SRA website provides regular bulletins with highlighted developments, but in a busy environment, do we realistically have time to check? 

Proactive providers have this awareness and offer support with regular check-ins, webinars and a range of contact details to ensure that updated information is accessible, understandable and responsive. 

A good provider understands the impact of this on learners and employers and is therefore adaptable and accommodating to the changes required — ensuring that the resolution is student-focused. This provides confidence as an employer that our colleagues are front and centre of their education provision and aligning with our values as an organisation.

Accessible learning

Learning should be accessible to all. We seek education providers that provide platforms to suit learning needs. Learning should now use technology and be provided in a variety of formats to suit today’s law student. It should also incorporate human coaches who provide nurturing support and identify strengths and areas for improvement. Progress reports for the employer can illustrate where they can support, providing the ability for mentors to offer hands-on learning in practice.

Finally, a good provider ensures that the learner is well. Legal education is challenging — and in an evolving, fast paced, competitive environment, ensuring that the learner’s wellbeing is being reviewed, monitored and cared for is our priority.  

Success can’t simply happen by measured outcomes through assessment — positive progression comes from supported education, where achievement isn’t purely results driven. It’s not all about the outcome of an exam. It’s about how happy our colleague is with their achievements.

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