I took on the role of University Partnerships Director in July this year and it’s been fantastic to become part of the BARBRI Global team.
BARBRI’s University Partnerships (UP) division is dedicated to supporting law schools throughout the UK and Ireland in their goal of providing the best possible employability outcomes for their students. As part of the overall Business Development team led by Head of Business Development, Victoria Cromwell, the UP team provides universities with a variety of dynamic options for the integration of SQE preparation into undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) degree programmes through different forms of collaboration.
Working alongside account managers Robbie Burke and Matthew Skelding, I’ve had the opportunity to see our existing university partnerships in action and to help forge many new relationships. Along the way, I’ve already been fortunate to meet a host of new higher education (HE) contacts, and to reconnect with great colleagues from my 18 years in the HE sector. It’s also been a pleasure to visit many of our partner universities’ campuses and meet the students embarking on our collaborative programmes.
I’ve also been very fortunate to renew my practice links, through my continued work with the International Bar Association (IBA) and through colleagues in Construction practice and the Law Society, meeting many BARBRI alumni along the way.
One particularly gratifying aspect of my work has been the chance to see the success of the King’s College London Master’s in Law & Professional Practice. Since I helped to establish the MSc, while acting as Director of Professional Legal Education at King’s, the programme has successfully launched and continues to grow apace, supported by the partnership with BARBRI’s SQE1 provision. I look forward to hearing more about the employability outcomes of the first cohorts.
It’s also been a pleasure to get to know the latest new SQE LLM partnership programmes, from partners like De Montfort University and London South Bank University, along with the Master’s offerings from existing partners such as the University of Brighton. What all of these programmes have in common is the shared desire to offer a fresh option to law students, incorporating the skills and specialisms demanded by modern legal practice, combined with outstanding preparation for qualification as a solicitor, provided by BARBRI’s renowned SQE courses.
As well as the success of BARBRI alumni in the first SQE1 and 2 sittings, it’s also been great to hear the positive feedback from our cohorts on the learning experience they have enjoyed as BARBRI students. This is in no small part down to the dedication of the teaching and learning team at BARBRI Global and I have really enjoyed speaking to our team of experts, including our Head of Learning, Jody Tranter. It’s also been a pleasure to work with our Operations Team, headed up by our Vice President of Operations, Dawn Anderson, to see how they deliver a fantastic user experience for all our clients.
Opening up new opportunities
The advent of the SQE continues to provide a range of opportunities and challenges to law schools and the wider HE sector. I was part of the early consultations around the introduction of the SQE and it was clear from the start that the best way to approach this new route to qualification was to adapt in a positive way, with a focus on student outcomes and the possibilities for renewal.
At King’s, I established the Future of Legal Practice open lecture series, and I continue to retain an active interest in the development of the profession, not least through my work with the IBA’s Future of Legal Services Commission.
It’s very clear that the lawyer of the future will require a multi-faceted education and training, incorporating new disciplines and skillsets. These include greater business awareness, an understanding of legal technology, and enhanced communications and interpersonal skills for the digital age. There is also an unprecedented opportunity for interdisciplinarity of approach, both across faculties and within the legal industry.
Universities throughout the country are taking on this challenge with a new breed of practice-facing Law master’s programmes and innovative undergraduate offerings, including some truly innovative content and pedagogic approaches. At our recent BARBRI University Partnerships webinar on Experiential Learning and Apprenticeships we heard from experts at Queen Mary University of London, the University of Exeter, King’s College London, the University of Portsmouth, and leading international law firm White & Case about some of the new initiatives out there.
However, making room for all of these new skillsets and disciplines in a curriculum, alongside a dynamic approach to experiential learning through clinical work and internships, is a real challenge. This is where it has been so gratifying to see how BARBRI’s SQE preparation can play a key role, whether as a credit-bearing set of modules, or a mandatory extra-curricular activity, by providing full coverage and expert preparation for the student’s SQE journey, while the faculty and other stakeholders provide for all the other fundamental aspects of a comprehensive legal education and training.
Next steps and new horizons
As I close out my first 6 months at BARBRI, thoughts turn to the opportunities and goals for the coming year. It’s clear from my conversations with university clients that we are about to enter another fascinating period of development as the full transition to the SQE era gathers pace.
We would love to hear from you if you are in the process of developing new programmes for launch in the coming academic cycle and would like to speak to us about different forms of SQE prep integration. I’m very much enjoying being part of the consultative process with a variety of institutions as they consider new ways of delivering the best in legal education and training.
I’m also relishing the opportunity to become involved in the ongoing move to degree apprenticeship programmes and the promise of an even deeper relationship between employers and universities, with all of the accessibility and pedagogic advantages the model offers.
BARBRI’s continuing mission is to be a force for progressive change in legal education and a facilitator of partners with the common goal of opening up new pathways to professional practice through higher education. I’m very proud to be at the forefront of that mission, working with amazing colleagues and institutional partners and I look forward to sharing more of our work with you in the coming months through further newsletter updates.
In the meantime, if you would like to contact me to discuss a university collaboration, please do reach out to me and the team by email or on LinkedIn, and I wish you a very happy Christmas break in the meantime. Best wishes, Chris Howard