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Law body worried by unskilled graduates

Nov 22 2010 15:46
Sapa

Johannesburg - The Law Society of SA (LSSA) on Monday said it was concerned at the many law graduates lacking essential skills.

The LSSA on Monday welcomed the findings on LLB curriculum research presented by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) at a colloquium on November 11.

"However, the LSSA continues to express its concern that a substantial number of law graduates are lacking in a number of essential skills such as research, computer work, literacy and numeracy," LSSA co-chairs Max Boqwana and Peter Horn said in a statement.

"Graduates who lack basic skills - which they should already be equipped with when they enter the profession - place a great burden on the attorneys' profession to provide training in these skills, instead of using the time and funding to strengthen the legal transactional skills required in the attorneys' profession," they said.

Clients in legal matters were placed at risk if new legal practitioners were not properly equipped to assist them.

This, in turn, had a negative impact on access to justice.

It seemed that, in general, law graduates were not adequately equipped for the practice of law.

A gradual decline in skills over time also appeared to have taken place.

The LSSA made extensive submissions to the CHE during the research phase.

Respondents to the CHE research survey - which included the LSSA as well as other players in the legal profession - generally agreed the most crucial abilities that should be attained by law graduates included problem solving, English language proficiency, understanding the application of legal principles and research skills.

In terms of legal topics, most faculties included in their curriculum the theoretical learning areas that were regarded as necessary for attorneys by the LSSA.

However, there appeared to be a lack of consensus on the skills that were needed.

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The need for a core curriculum had been raised, Boqwana and Horn said.

LSSA director of legal education and development Nic Swart said the LSSA was concerned that, even if consensus was reached about the focus certain content should enjoy at all law faculties, this still did not guarantee the quality of tuition.

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"This is a very high priority which the CHE, the department of higher education and the law faculties must address," Swart said.

The LSSA was also concerned about the disparity between faculties, in particular as far as depth of tuition was concerned.

Some law faculties offered eight times more practical skills training than others, and only 10 of the 17 law faculties offered language courses.

"The LSSA trusts that these issues will be addressed by the relevant authorities without delay.

"For its part, the LSSA - with the financial assistance of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund - will continue to make meaningful interventions to the quality of academic tuition of those law graduates who enter the ranks of the attorneys' profession.

"The LSSA is confident that the profession will continue to be acknowledged as a partner in the process of review of the LLB curriculum," Swart said.


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