New legal skills certificate highlights industry partnership

A new qualification listed on the New Zealand Qualifications and Credentials Framework (NZQCF) will replace the current Professional Legal Studies Course for trainee barristers and solicitors after a successful collaboration between the legal profession and Ringa Hora Services Workforce Development Council (WDC). 

Students won’t notice much difference, but the new certificate allows for the Professional Legal Studies (Profs) programme, a prerequisite to admission to the bar as a barrister and solicitor, to continue.  

The development of the New Zealand Certificate in Professional Legal Skills (Level 6), approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) this year, most importantly means learners will continue to have access to student loans and student support. 

“Until this process, Ringa Hora had not worked in the legal education sector, and we were impressed how quickly their key staff on this project were able to understand about the programme and the terminology used,” New Zealand Council for Legal Education (NZCLE) senior policy advisor David Brown says. 

“It has been a pleasure working with Ringa Hora, with particular mention to be made of Sandy Chan, who coordinated and led the work, and Diana Garrett, but credit is to be given to the whole team involved.” 

The new certificate was required after changes to the Education and Training Act 2020 meant the scheme was reclassified as a micro-credential. However, it came in at 48 credits – higher than the 45-credit maximum for a micro-credential. 

“Continued access to student loans and allowances for this course is essential to ensure diversity and equity in the legal profession, for the wider public interest in ensuring that the profession represent the community it serves, and understands its needs,” David Brown says. 

“Some trainees are able to be funded privately or by their employer, but that is not the case for many others.” 

Upon seeing the need for a qualification, the NZCLE contacted Ringa Hora, the WDC responsible for vocational standard-setting in legal services, to help develop it along with legal profession stakeholders and the two current Training Scheme providers, the Institute of Professional Legal Studies and the College of Law. 

After asking various legal profession stakeholders what skills the qualification needed to include, Ringa Hora called for expressions of interest to stakeholders wanting to be involved in the process. 

Subsequently a working group, which wrote and developed the qualification, and a consultation group, which would be advised on outcomes and was encouraged to give feedback. 

Among the stakeholders involved were representatives from the NZCLE, Institute of Professional Legal Studies, College of Law, Meredith Connell, and the New Zealand Law Society. 

“Ringa Hora engendered a collaborative spirit, and did so efficiently and responsively with an eye to the timeframes,” David Brown says. “The focus was always on how to solve issues arising and work together for a solution.” 

Ringa Hora chief executive Kari Scrimshaw says the process highlights how effective the cooperation with industry groups is. 

“This was initiated by the legal profession but only came together as a result of outstanding collaboration and great work from everyone involved,” she says. 

“As a result, students now have a fit for purpose qualification and continue to get the support they need on their path to becoming a lawyer.” 

The New Zealand Certificate in Professional Legal Skills (Level 6) is now registered on the New Zealand Qualifications and Credentials Framework (NZQCF). Programme endorsement can be sought from Ringa Hora towards delivery of this qualification by emailing [email protected].