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New solicitor super-exam could prevent ‘less affluent’ students entering the profession, warns Junior Lawyers Division

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Despite the SRA claiming qualification will be ‘substantially cheaper’

money

The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) has expressed concerns that a new regulator-backed solicitor super-exam could prevent “less affluent” students entering the profession.

Bryan Scant, who was elevated to the role of JLD chair last month, has told Legal Cheek that if the super-exam gets the green light, there is a real danger that “only those with sufficient financial means will be able to qualify as a solicitor”.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) first mooted the super-exam — or Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) as it’s officially known — in December 2015. Combining elements of the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), students, who will need to pass this new assessment prior to qualification, will have the option to attend a law school-operated prep course to boost their chances of passing.

Calling for further information regarding how “students from less affluent backgrounds” could fund the prep course and exam, Scant — whose division represents over 70,000 young lawyers, paralegals and law students across England and Wales — said:

At present, as the LPC is compulsory to qualify as a solicitor, banks offer specialist loans to assist students. If the preparatory course will not be compulsory, the JLD is concerned that these loans will be unavailable to students, and only those with sufficient financial means will be able to qualify as a solicitor.

The JLD’s concerns come despite the regulator’s assurances that its new proposed route to qualification will be “substantially cheaper” than the current system. Back in November, SRA education director Julie Brannan exclusively told Legal Cheek that the super-exam will represent “real value for money”, but declined to give estimates regarding costs.

If given the go-ahead the new exam format will be introduced in just under two years time. As it stands, a wannabe solicitor could be forking out as much as £15,500 for a place on the LPC at a London provider.

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27 Comments

Anonymous

Since when did “banks offer specialist loans to assist students” for the LPC?! One bank was offered by BPP which was terrible, basically paying back double the LPC cost! No other retail/high street bank covered the LPC. Correct me if I’m wrong but thats a load of rubbish

(28)(3)

Anonymous

About 10-15 years ago there were a number of high street banks offering loans to cover courses such as the LPC (Natwest was one), but times have changed.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

I undertook the GDL and LPC in 2012 and 2014 and was astounded at the dearth of available loans.

Natwest pulled the plug on a loan to cover the GDL and my living expenses at the last minute (having confirmed in writing that they would provide it and after I had paid deposits for both the course and accomodation). There were no other loans on the market at this time and, having not gained my TC yet, I was forced to borrow money from my parents.

The professional career development loans – applicable only for the LPC – do not come close to covering the course fees, let alone living expenses. With no other banks offering any type of loan for this course I had to use the Investec loan issued via BPP. This loan, the only available product on the market, bore a ridiculous interest rate of 8%.

It is astounding that the CMA have not looked into this debacle. I was very fortunate that the firm I gained my TC with retrospectively paid for both the GDL and LPC. Others won’t be so lucky and will have this millstone around their necks for years to come.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Please what firm retrospectively paid for your fees? Literally no firm offers that and I’m freaking out lol

(0)(0)

Debt slave

8% p.a.? Nice.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Coop offer a professional and career development loan and Metro bank offer one exclusively to ULaw students.

(5)(5)

Armchair Shoes

I think that if you do a masters with the LPC you can get a student loan to cover the cost?

This is why I’m glad I’m only studying law because I enjoy it, not because I want to work in it!

(2)(3)

Anonymous

Masochist.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(5)

Anonymous

At least they can speak English, you can’t speak theirs at all xx

(0)(0)

Kim Jong Kung Fu

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(1)

Need Advice

I’ve been offered a vacation scheme by both Pinsent Masons and Eversheds. The dates clash so I can’t do both. Which one would you (generally) recommend? I feel like the former is more up my street in terms of work culture. I also suspect that I stand a better chance of parlaying their VS into a TC.

(5)(26)

Sheds slave

Quality wind-up mate, 9/10.

(19)(0)

Sociopathic Eversheds Manager

Why are you on Legal Cheek? GET BACK TO BILLING, DAMNIT!

(15)(0)

Pinsents gimp, 3PQE

Go for Pinsents mate. Ever since I joined last year the shafting hadn’t stopped, and the firm supplies all the lube for free!

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Free lube? I wish I had know that before. I reckoned Travers Smith was best on LGBT+. Kicking myself!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Both shops are shyte.

Toss a coin, won’t make any difference.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Loving that the comment reporting the abundantly clear spelling error has been deleted, yet the spelling error remains. Is this mistake deliberate in order to elicit some comment on what is an otherwise boring AF article given the current system already largely prevents less affluent students from entering the profession??

(6)(3)

Anonymous

Hopefully it will also prevent illiterate students from getting in, such as individuals spelling affluent with an “i”

(2)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Your trolling isn’t funny.

(0)(0)

Officious Bystander

An article about access to the profession for the less privileged and not a peep from Not Amused – concerned for their welfare now…

(2)(0)

Petit Boudin Blanc

The litmus test for this idea is whether it would stop dishonest duds like Alan Blacker from wangling their way onto the roll.

(3)(0)

TheLolz

I always enjoy listening to people like Brian telling us that any proposed change will reduce access to the profession from disadvantaged groups.

As if these people are already doing well out of the current system.

The LPC has got shite all to do with it, and it has got everything to do with who it is that law firms choose to recruit.

Same drone, different face. One or two tokens chucked in to deflect allegations of systemic bias and prejudice.

The excuse leveraged by firms is always the same: “we are a private business, not a charity, and we can choose who we want”. Indeed, but you don’t get the benefits of claiming you believe in diversity without renouncing the original sin.

The same excuse equally can be turned on its head to justify recruiting those from less advantaged backgrounds. However, of course they won’t do this because they don’t want to recruit people who will remind them that they had a much less fortunate start in life than they themselves did.

If the legal profession and the LPC providers are not happy with this change, I suggest it’s probably something that ought to go ahead. They are doing very well out of the existing system, aspirant solicitors aren’t.

More of the same I’m afraid is not the order of the day. The two biggest European legal insolvencies in the past decade have come from British firms.

But sure, carry on as usual, I’m sure it will be fine.

Tancredi, The Leopard by Giuseppi Tomasi di Lampedusa, “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”.

This post has been moderated because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

Revolution, shoot all the lawyers.

(1)(0)

Daniel Olive

I see a great opportunity for work before the Revolutionary Tribunal disputing the definition of “lawyers”. Finally some decent paying private criminal defence work.

(0)(1)

Comments are closed.