Category Archives: Law

My 5 legal profession/education predictions for 2016

Tomorrow sees the return to work for most of us and I thought it would be fun to set out a few predictions for 2016 and then review them next New Year’s Eve. So, here goes:

1. Further dissolution of the traditional legal professions

I think this is a fairly safe one to start off with. There’s no doubt in my mind that the repercussions of the Legal Services Act 2007 are still unfolding even 9 years later. Advances in technology and the innovative use of said technology has opened up new frontiers to explore. ABSs and inter-professional firms have not been fully exploited and yet we are stuck with the same definition of a ‘Solicitor’ and a ‘Barrister’. Even CILEx, who have purposely set out to capture as much of the legal services regulation market as possible have not redefined the role of a ‘Legal Executive’ although they have made a determined attempt to expand it to include ‘Paralegals’.

It’s only that term ‘Paralegal’ that defies definition. It is all encompassing and I think that is a good thing. I can see 2016 revealing a further dissolution of the traditional legal professions with the term ‘Lawyer’ or better still ‘Legal Service Provider’ being a holistic term covering a wide spectrum of new and innovative services and occupations. Who regulates those….well, that will be interesting!

2. Increase in CILEx membership

Tied into (1) above but a separate prediction in its own right. This year, 2016 will see the continued increase in CILEx membership as growing ranks of Paralegals flock to join the representative body partly for recognition, partly for representation and partly for regulation. Paralegals will choose to do this and get on with their professional careers rather than chase the pipe dream of someday qualifying as a Solicitor or Barrister. Until the SRA and BSB wake up to realising that their professions need to be redefined, both bodies will see a declining increase in membership.

3. Further development and integration of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in legal practice

This year will see the inevitable development and greater use of AI to provide quicker, more detailed, and more accurate analysis and risk assessment of data held by legal service providers. The human mind simply cannot compete at the speed of computers and neither should it. That is what the computer is there to do. Instead, AI should be embraced as a means of liberating the more mundane, elevating the human part of the equation to a strategic, communicative, and leadership role better suited to the niceties of dealing with other human beings (aka clients/consumers).

4. New roles (for humans) in legal services

Although the words in brackets are a bit tongue-in-cheek, they have a serious note. If we are to leave the more mundane to computers, if we are to embrace AI as I suggest, then how do we adapt? Well I think that the increased use of technology in the provision of legal services will lead to new roles for legal professionals, those roles being ‘Legal Technician’, ‘Legal Systems Developer/Manager’, Legal Database Manager’, ‘Legal Analyst’, ‘Risk Analysis’, etc. Legal professionals in 2016 will start to take an interest in the software development side of things since an understanding of what goes on “under the hood” is essential if you are to use the machine so to speak.

5.Announcement that Kaplan will be the sole assessor of the proposed Solicitors Qualifying Exam

I’ve saved the best, most outlandish prediction until last. Whilst everyone lamented the exit of Kaplan from the LPC provider market, it was a canny bit of business actually. They knew that that market was disrupted, was shrinking, that they could not compete with the larger providers. So, they made a strategic retreat, have taken the opportunity to regroup, and will I think place themselves in an ideal position to bid and possibly win the vacancy to be the SRA’s chosen independent assessor of the SQE. Given that the changes to the route(s) to qualification as a Solicitor are due to be concluded in 2017 (believe that when we see it), it would seem sensible to make an announcement in the year preceding. Maybe then people will acknowledge that Kaplan’s move was pretty smart.

So, there you have it. Five predictions, five stabs in the dark. Just set a reminder for Saturday 31st December 2016 to review these. I’ll either be acclaimed as the new Nostradamus or the new Russell Grant, let’s see shall we? 

Happy new year!

It’s your professional development, it’s time to take control!

Hands up…how many of you have experienced an effective appraisal or career development review system run by an employer? Not many I’d guess. Personal experience suggests that they are nothing more than tick box exercises with little in the way of actual development being shown for all the talking and hours it takes to complete. Caring and sharing faces shown by ‘People’ managers but really is anything achieved by the time the next review comes around or are you left with that feeling that it’s really just one big empty gesture?

The post-industrial age in which we live provides little job security in the employer/employee market and so it’s time to take control of your own personal and professional development. Don’t worry, it won’t conflict with your employer’s appraisal or career development scheme, in fact it will complement it and might even put you in the driving seat to get genuine support on the road to furthering your professional goals. The point is that you, that’s YOU, have to have a plan; one that you have set out, that is personal to your professional development regardless of whether you are employed or self-employed. A plan that is transferable and continuously progressive. A plan that is your responsibility.

The latest in my toolkit series is a Professional Development Plan Toolkit. It contains documents and provides a process that will help YOU implement YOUR plan and guide you through the professional development cycle. It puts you in the driving seat.

The PDP Toolkit from www.nghudson.com

The PDP Toolkit from http://www.nghudson.com

The toolkit consists of a number of worksheets to be completed in order as part of a development planning process:

  • Self-assessment Worksheet
  • Professional Development Worksheet
  • Goal Development Questions
  • Current Career Issues Worksheet
  • Pinnacle Moments Worksheet
  • Foothill Moments Worksheet
  • Action Steps Worksheet

Each document is in both Word and PDF format so that you can adapt the plan to your specific professional requirements.

A Professional Development Plan; it’s a small price for a huge investment in the biggest asset you have…YOU.

Instructional Design

The latest in the nghudson series of toolkits is now available to download from nghudson.com

The Instructional Design Toolkit available from www.nghudson.com

The Instructional Design Toolkit available from www.nghudson.com

The Instructional Design Toolkit complements the previous two kits in the series in that it deals with the next stage in the curriculum/course design process: Design & Delivery Strategy – Course Modelling – Instructional Design.

I know from over twenty years of experience that it is hard to find templates for very important documents such as Initial Design Concepts and particularly Design Briefs. Yes, if you look very hard in the right places only certain people seem to know, you will find the odd PDF file here and there but they vary widely in both suitability and quality. That is why I have produced the tools in this toolkit series, so that designers, in particular those involved in legal education, have ready-made, suitable and comprehensive templates with which to work.

This toolkit comprises the following documents that can be adapted to suit individual organisations or institutions:

  • Initial Design Concept Template
  • Design Brief Template
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs Table
  • Session Description Template
  • Task Template
  • Facilitation Guidance Template

Each of the templates has both Word and PDF versions. Guidance is given both on the instructional design process and the information required in order to complete fully working documents, saving you tremendous amounts of time and effort.

As with all the toolkits in this series, they have been designed to be self-contained, however, nghudson.com can provide workshops and support to help design teams get the most out of their use. Simply contact me through this blog or the nghudson website if you’d like details.

Legal Education News: the new online magazine

As you know, I’ve been publishing a legal education newsletter, The Legal Edlines, in 2 formats recently: a weekly version published via paper.li and a digital interactive supplement available through my website nghudson.com Both versions have proven popular but now there’s an improved version available.

As of this week, publication of The Legal Edlines will cease and it will be replaced with a brand new online magazine called Legal Education News which will be published with Flipboard.

Flipboard is a publishing platform that can be viewed through a desktop/laptop browser or across all your mobile devices via apps that are available for iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry. Flipboard will provide Legal Education News with a single place to discover, collect and share news that we care about. It will include articles available on the web, publications, social media and blogs connected to legal education, the topics that are closest to us and the people who work in that field.

Legal Education News

Legal Education News

Flipboard provides a beautiful magazine format that is easy to use and great to view. You can curate and share articles that appear in the magazine, ensuring that you and your colleagues are kept up to date with Legal Education News. View the very first issue by clicking on this link:

Legal Education News

Legal Education News will be updated as new stories develop so you will be able to keep up to date simply by hitting the refresh button on your internet browser or by subscribing to the magazine via the Flipboard app. And the best thing about it….it’s FREE!

I hope you read and enjoy it.

Latest issue of The Legal Edlines is out now!

The latest issue of my newsletter, The Legal Edlines, is out now and available to down load free from my website www.nghudson.com

The Legal Edlines is a digital interactive newsletter bringing together all the latest news and developments in the field of higher education and legal education in particular.

TLE 14_03_21_Page_1

The Legal Edlines: an interactive digital newsletter for legal education practitioners

I’ve been working on a new version of The Legal Edlines, a weekly updating newsletter rounding-up the latest developments in legal education.

Up until now I’ve been using paper.li to source material and while it is very good at what it does, it is limited. It relies mainly on social media sites Twitter and Facebook plus RSS feeds which I find few people or organisations use effectively. I feel that there is a need for an updater that draws on a wider range of resources and that is why I’ve hit on the concept of an interactive digital newsletter aimed at the legal education practitioner and learner.

The prototype was produced yesterday and I’m aiming to release the first copy this coming Friday. Please watch out for it. If you’re a learner, designer, tutor or just plain interested in higher education and legal education in particular, I think you’ll find it useful and hopefully thought provoking. It forms part of a holistic package I’m designing centred on 21st Century social learning and the emergence of the digital designer/tutor/learner. I’m hopeful that with changes to legal education and the empowerment of like-minded people, this could be the start of something big. Who knows, for the adolescents of the 1970s who remember such things and the Edupunks amongst us, The Legal Edlines may be The Sniffin’ Glue of 21st Century legal education.

20140308-230240.jpg

Legal Education: The Road from Socratic to Problem-based to Work-based Learning (Part 3)

This is the final part of a series of posts about the road legal education has taken from Socratic to problem-based to work-based learning. It is a personal and professional account of my experience since entering the world of legal education, something which I will be expanding upon in my presentation at the Centre for Legal Education Conference 2014

Last week I looked at how the Legal Practice Course (LPC) had developed the vocational stage of legal education and training, taking what was a traditionally delivered course (the Law Society Finals) and adding an element of realism by way of delivery using professional skills. But replacing delivery of pure content with problem-based learning was not without its difficulties. Problem-based learning, to be delivered well and effectively, requires greater resources than just one lecturer/tutor standing in front of a class communicating content and disseminating knowledge. The more problems that are set individually, the more resources are required, particularly if you do not embrace P2P (peer to peer) learning. Resources are expensive, especially human resource, and the cost of staffing the LPC was and still is of great concern to those providers old and new. A lot of new tutors were recruited from practice and although those recruited were not expecting the same remuneration they had been used to , they were still demanding something similar.

The answer seemed to be ‘efficiency’, partly as a result of the need to keep resource cost under control and partly as a result of the centrally and self-imposed shackles of equivalence placed on course designers by the governing bodies and QA guardians (although the term ‘Quality Assurance’ had not yet entered the business speak of LPC providers). The result: course design centred around uniform problem setting where there was only one correct method and one correct solution. All students were to have the same experience, with no diversity and no comparative discussion. Good from the institutions’ point of view (resources are quantifiable, predictable, equivalence is easily evidenced), boring from the learners’ point of view. A sausage factory where it is easy to allege that the course is spoon-fed and just a hurdle to overcome. Narrow problem-based learning like this does not challenge, interest or excite learners as much as the individual, unique experience of solving a professional problem or issue that is personal to you, an experience which can then be discussed, reflected upon and learnt from.

Of course, there were exceptions. I mentioned the GGSL’s SIMPLE Project last week which went some way to address the issue of common problem-setting by taking context a step further in terms of ‘realism’ in a virtual world. It’s a tool which has been commonly used, create a virtual town with virtual firms, clients, and problems. The effect however is the same: all learners tackle the same problem and are encouraged or tutored to arrive at the same solution using the same or similar methods. It’s just a question of how long it takes them to do so and by how many detours or dead-ends. I should stress that this is a criticism of the ‘one problem fits all’ approach to problem-based learning, an approach borne out of the desire to achieve consistency and equivalence of learning experience, rather than a criticism of the simulation approach to learning itself. Simulation is an effective answer to learning in a classroom-only environment but to truly simulate the work environment you need to have multiple individual problems where learners discuss and learn from each others experience not just a common problem where everyone’s learning experience is exactly the same. The latter is no more than an extension of Socratic teaching only delivered by facilitation rather than by traditional Socratic methods. In the learning environment I’ve described, facilitation is merely the corralling of common thought, a method of policing what learners are doing and ensuring that only the correct solution is arrived at. It often results in what I would call ‘mini-Socratic teaching’ where a tutor answers the question or delivers the content to students individually or in small groups, one group at a time. It has little to do with guided discovery which I think is the true meaning of facilitation.

Exempting law degrees and the integration of pro-bono clinics into LPC courses were also valiant exceptions worthy of mention but by and large most LPC providers created the same mould resulting in the oft heard allegations from students that the LPC was boring and dull. A sad unfolding of what was originally an exciting shift to skills teaching in the classroom.

Unfortunately, not a lot has changed as far as I can see in the way legal education is now delivered although I know that there are plenty of strategists and designers out there with innovative ideas. Criticism of the LPC in particular has become harder and harder to defend particularly in the light of increasing tuition fees and decreasing job opportunities on exit. It’s against this backdrop that work-based learning continues to gain popularity and I question whether the LPC has a future if it continues in its present state or whether it needs to adopt a more personal, collaborative, and reflective method of learning integrated with work-based learning.

So what of the future? Is it class-based, work-based, a blend of both or something entirely different? Big questions!

Simulations such as SIMPLE are excellent attempts to create a virtual world in which problem-based learning can be delivered. Last week I also mentioned my own experience concerning the design and implementation of an ePortfolio Pilot Assessment at the University of Law which highlighted a whole host of fundamental issues and problems when innovation clashes with conservatism, and design clashes with operations. The starting point however is what does work-based learning have to offer from a teaching and learning perspective (ignoring questions of finance, fees, job prospects) that problem-based learning could learn from? Well I would suggest the following:

  • It involves the real world not a virtual world and no matter how hard you try to recreate the real world you will never achieve it.
  • You will encounter an endless variety of problems and issues in the real world of work-based learning and a variety of contexts as opposed to just a few common problems normally encountered in traditional problem-based learning.
  • Reflection can be through comparison of context not just comparison of approach or technique.
  • The result is a very personalised learning experience which learners enjoy far more than just a common, uniform, pre-set experience.
  • It can be integrated with Personal Development Plans in a much more meaningful way than problem-based learning in the classroom.

Can work-based learning be recreated in the classroom? I think not. Should the classroom be used as an extension or progression of the work-based learning experience? In my opinion, undoubtedly, yes. The classroom offers opportunities for reflection, comparison, co-operation, collaboration, coaching and mentoring which should not be discounted. The challenge therefore is not to turn one’s back on problem-based learning or the classroom environment. The challenge is to develop problem-based learning in such a way that it is blended or integrated with work-based learning, creating a classroom experience that fosters a real sense of physical learning community. That is the challenge that I would like to see instructional designers and, more importantly legal eduction providers, now address.

If you’ve not already booked your place at the Centre for Legal Education Conference 2014 then it’s probably not too late to do so. Two of the central themes of the conference are the value of legal education and the value of work-based learning and class-based learning. There’s an excellent list of speakers and presenters and I’m sure there will be lots of interesting discussion and debate. Hope to see you there!