New solicitor super-exam would be open to non-graduates and make law degrees optional
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has given its official backing to a solicitor super-exam that would spell the end of the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
The proposed epic centralised test — or Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE), to give it its proper title — has finally received the green light from the profession’s regulator today after weeks of flirting with the radical move.
The SRA hopes that the universal exam — that will test key elements of a law degree, LPC and even a training contract — will provide a competency “benchmark” for the profession. A consultation on the proposal opened today.
With legal education providers currently responsible for assessing a student’s knowledge, the current system, according to the SRA, fails to “measure candidates on a consistent or comparable basis”. With all aspiring solicitors regardless of their previous education or training having to sit the super-exam — which would be centrally-assessed — the SRA hopes to solve this problem.
In theory, anyone off the street feeling brave enough could have a pop at the exam, but it’s likely in reality that many will still undertake a law degree first, or one of the specially-tailored new preparation courses that would surely be created by law schools to cater for the new exam. The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) may also survive in some form.
However the same cannot be said for the LPC. The vocational course — that essentially acts a bridge between academic study and training at your chosen law firm — would die a death under the plan, potentially saving students as much as £15,000. With major overlaps with the new super-exam likely, it would appear pointless for students to sit both.
Trumpeting the major shake-up, the SRA claims the revolutionary new approach will “help foster greater diversity in the profession”.
Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:
Entry into a profession is the key point at which the quality of the profession as a whole is defined. So it has to be right that everyone meets consistent, high standards.
We think that the best way to ensure that solicitors meet the standards we, their clients and the public expect is to put in place the same, rigorous assessment for aspiring solicitors. That will give real confidence to employers, the users of legal services and indeed the profession itself.
With the cost and format of the exam still unknown, the SRA has today launched a 20 question consultation titled “Training for Tomorrow: assessing competence”.
The survey will run until 4 March 2016 and you can find it here.
People are freaking out about plans to replace law degrees and the LPC with a solicitor super-exam open to non-graduates [Legal Cheek]