Education for legal practice, whether as a barrister or a solicitor, requires training at academic and professional levels. The Institute is mainly responsible for the latter. Before embarking on the course all Institute trainees have already successfully completed the academic stage.
The Institute is not, however, the beginning and end of professional training, but a component of it. Formal professional education is provided in two ways:
- A period of organised vocational training in an institutional setting
- A period of in-practice training, i.e. working in a real, professional setting under supervision.
The Institute provides the first of these and the profession provides the latter.
The course is designed to give trainees an understanding of the nature and role of the legal profession and to develop in them a strong sense of professionalism. A major function of the course is to draw out and develop trainees' academic, intellectual and personal skills and resources, shaping and adapting them to the resolution of practical legal problems.
Barristers and solicitors benefit from being educated together. This principle lies at the heart of the Institute’s teaching philosophy. To a large extent, therefore, bar and solicitor trainees receive the same training during their year at the Institute. There are, nonetheless, areas of practice, knowledge and skills which bear more heavily on one branch of the profession than on the other. These are acknowledged in the Institute’s teaching programme and in such areas the bar and solicitor courses are taught separately. For example, bar trainees, while requiring knowledge of land law and of basic conveyancing, do not need tuition in this field to the same extent as solicitor trainees. Consequently, all trainees study conveyancing in a basic three-week course. Solicitor trainees are provided with further in-depth training in conveyancing in two additional courses. Similarly, while most subjects are taught to both groups of trainees at the same time, they may include separate tutorials and/or practical exercises for each branch of the profession.