The Law Society has raised questions about the quality of university law degrees after complaints from some law firms that trainees know too little about legal research.
Eight city law firms are now planning to set up their own legal practice course (LPC), which trains graduates to be solicitors, and have enlisted Nottingham Law School, part of Nottingham Trent University, the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice and the private institute BPP to tailor one that will meet their needs.
One claim is that existing LPC courses are not sufficiently academic.
But a Law Society spokesman said the LPC was supposed to be a practical course. "If they think people cannot do research, the simple answer is for universities to pull their finger out."
The spokesman said the society had been holding discussions with universities on the quality of law degrees for some time, as a result of which the number of hours spent on the study of law had increased.
Allan Paterson, chairman of the heads of university law schools, conceded: "If firms are looking to law schools for even better training in legal research, that is something we should face up to."
He saw the logic of commercial law firms developing legal practice courses, but warned that it could mean a dearth of trainees with knowledge of skills such as legal aid and conveyancing.
The College of Law, the largest LPC provider, has responded to the plans by submitting proposals to the Law Society for its own corporate LPC to start next year.
The Law Society is reviewing legal training and will discuss its plans next week.
Proposals for the new corporate LPC should be made public later this month. The law firms involved are: Norton Rose, Slaughters, Clifford Chance, Allen and Overy, Freshfields, Linklaters and Alliance, Herbert Smith and Lovell White Durrant.