Legal eagles take flight with transferable skills

October 31, 1997

Critics call them Noddy courses, but more and more students are opting for highly vocational study

Budding lawyers are tapping other talents in a bid to find a life beyond the law, writes Harriet Swain.

Of the 14,000 law graduates and 2,000 people on law conversion courses each year, just 65 per cent go on to legal practice courses or training for the bar. Only about 36 per cent get training contracts or pupillages and still fewer attain tenancies.

As a result, the Department for Education and Employment has commissioned work into encouraging law graduates to view their degrees more flexibly.

John Bell, who is heading the research team, said: "We are making our students aware of the broader range of skills they are acquiring during their legal studies which they can then articulate to employers in a wide range of disciplines - not simply law."

The two-year project has concentrated so far on studying examples of good practice such as at De Montfort University. There a skills certificate is used by all courses. Each course must explain the skills elements they involve and students receive a certificate on completion.

Newcastle University has a scheme whereby students have to show satisfactory performance in skills such as oral or group work.

HEFCE has sponsored pilot schemes in Bristol, Southampton and the University of the West of England to develop transferable skills ideas in law and social work.

Judith Thomas, manager of the self- assessment in professional and higher education project, based at Bristol University, is working with small groups of students who discuss their work critically.

When students arrive, they develop a record of the skills they have and which ones they want to develop or improve.

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