March 15th, 2010
The LPC at MMU operates in an extremely competitive market with two private providers also based in central Manchester . In order to be competitive, the LPC at MMU needs to respond to changes in student and employer needs and therefore the LPC management team is currently considering how employability aspects on the LPC can be enhanced and whether students can be provided with different routes on the LPC whereby employability aspects are integrated into the course to a greater or lesser extent. This is in response to the results of questionnaires to all MMU LPC students in Summer 2009 who identified employability as a key aspect they wanted further enhanced on the LPC.
The law strand of the project is therefore concentrating on increasing employability within the Legal Practice Course (LPC), and whether the LPC curricula can be responsive to this need in course design, delivery and engagement with potential employers/the legal community. Between last March and June (2009) students undertaking the Housing and Welfare (H&W) elective on the LPC undertook a day work placement within a housing legal team. This was organised with the intention of improving the student’s engagement with the subject and to give them a better understanding of vocational practice. After the placement, students fed back to one and other on their experience through webCT, and also completed a questionnaire about their work experience and the relevance of current course content. The employer organisations were also questionnaired on a similar basis.
Student feedback was that overall they benefitted a great deal from the work placements and (subject to time constraints) would like longer placements. Of the employers involved, five out of the seven completed the questionnaire and they all wanted to be part of the scheme again and were extremely positive about the links with the LPC and how these might be enhanced. As a result, students who study H&W in 2009/10 will benefit from the availability of a week’s work placement at 4 of the organisations involved in the first phase.
The employer organisations and H&W students were also questionnaired on the future content of the H&W elective. It is currently in the process of being re-validated. Their responses, in particular the preference from the profession for an elective in Housing Law alone, will shape the deign of this new vocational elective which will be delivered from September 2010.
Thisexercise has, to date, produced useful data/experience about responding to the requirement for greater integration of employability such as greater employer engagement by the LPC as a whole, spin off third stream activities and a wealth of careers opportunities including a recent event attended by, amongst others, a number of placement organisations which highlighted volunteering and mentoring possibilities. It has also highlighted some of the more challenging aspects, such as the time taken to organise and maintain links and the difficulties when there is a change of personnel within the employer organisations.
The information generated has also been disseminated to all LPC staff currently developing elective subjects for a new vocational elective stage of the LPC which starts in September 2010. The aim is to encourage the incorporation of additional employability aspects into these electives through the sharing of good practice. The outcome of the enhanced work placements for this year will also be disseminated to staff.
Since putting together our initial project plan in which we intended students to reflect their achievement of the SRA’s ‘day 1 outcomes’, the original plans by the SRA to embed portfolios within solicitor training were abandoned in response to feedback from the profession. We have therefore adjusted our original intention to utilise PebblePAD on the LPC and instead are now focussing on work experience and familiarity with practice issues as being more responsive to the professional body’s revised perception of employability.