Developing professional judgement in the legal profession: the use of the Professional Education and Training Programme (PEAT 2) in selected Scottish law firms
AbstractThe objective of this research is to evaluate the effectiveness of the development of professional judgement during the two year work-based pre-admission training period (PEAT 2) required of Scottish solicitors so as to identify a model that allows them to respond to the changes the UK legal services sector is experiencing. The methodology adopted throughout reflects an emphasis on researching knowledge in the context of its application (Flyvbjerg 2001). Professional judgement is described as the ‘heart of professional practice’ (Fish and Coles 1998) and is therefore selected to provide a holistic method of evaluation. The UK legal profession is fragmenting in its response to market pressures, including the introduction of external regulation and ‘alternative business structures’ under the Legal Services Act 2007 and increased globalisation, specialisation and commoditisation. It is therefore important to identify the traditional method used by Scottish solicitors to develop their judgement as there is a risk that what was previously implicit and assumed in this ‘community of practice’ (Wenger 1998) becomes dissipated. As a result, the relevance and application of judgement is considered in the context of professional practice and solicitors in particular. The effect of external influences are interpreted, including in relation to the job of a solicitor, the future development of judgement and implications for legal education. The research method adopted enables confidential data to be obtained about the development of professional judgement and the PEAT 2 processes through completion of semi-structured interviews with a number of Scottish law firms, the Law Society of Scotland and related regulatory organisations, supplemented with Scottish trainee focus groups and comparative data from illustrative law firms and regulators in England and Wales. This allows 10 detailed case studies of law firms to be developed and analysed using Eraut’s (2007) model of early career learning and Fuller and Unwin’s (2003) model of expansive and restrictive apprenticeships as well as providing commentary from experienced solicitors and regulatory sources on the development of professional judgement. This allows 10 detailed case studies of law firms to be developed and analysed using Eraut’s (2007) model of early career learning and Fuller and Unwin’s (2003) model of expansive and restrictive apprenticeships as well as providing commentary from experienced solicitors and regulatory sources on the development of professional judgement. This data enables an analysis of the effectiveness of the current Scottish pre-admission training processes and the identification of methods used to develop the judgement of novices. Findings indicate that elements of the formal requirements of PEAT 2 are limiting the experiential and reflective learning of trainees and, in the wider context of work-based learning, that professional judgement is developed through exposure to reflective practice in a ‘community’ that provides an expansive apprenticeship and establishes parameters of acceptable choices. Recommendations include adjustments to pre-admission legal training and the introduction of a specialist qualification, accredited by the Law Society of Scotland.
CitationWestwood, F. (2015). Developing professional judgement in the legal profession: The use of the Professional Education and Training Programme (PEAT 2) in selected Scottish law firms. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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