New SRA-backed proposals will remove the need for solicitors to have a degree — unless they work in the Square Mile
The City of London Law Society (CLLS) has issued a warning to students harbouring ambitions of practising law at City firms: they will still need to obtain a degree first, even if a single Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) gets the green light.
It’s proposed that the new centralised ‘super exam’ — backed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) — will test key elements of a law degree, Legal Practice Course (LPC) and a training contract. Creating a competency benchmark, the SQE will also, somewhat controversially, be open to non-graduates.
However, the CLLS — which represents over 17,000 solicitors in the Square Mile — has warned aspiring City lawyers that firms are still likely to require their trainees to have attended university.
In response to the SRA’s proposals the CLLS said:
It would be misleading to give students the impression that a graduate education is not essential for some legal career options, and unfair to expect them to make career choices at such an early stage.
With City firms likely to place a greater focus on a potential trainee’s degree performance — as apposed to SQE result — the CLLS warned against the emergence of a “two-tier profession”, those who are university-educated and those who are not.
Just last month Law Society big-wig Catherine Dixon highlighted her concerns over the SRA’s plans. Suggesting the exam “risked damaging the profession’s standing”, she argued that the regulatory changes would “devalue” the solicitor qualification.
The Society’s chief executive also revealed her apprehension over letting non-graduates sit the SQE, continuing:
The SRA’s consultation on entry may result in solicitors not even needing a degree to qualify, which has the potential to damage both the profession’s reputation, and the envied global status of England and Wales as a centre of legal excellence and jurisdiction of choice.
Although the super exam’s introduction would effectively make the LPC redundant, a number of top law schools have confirmed they will continue to offer the vocational course, regardless of the outcome.
According to the Law Society Gazette, BPP Law School and the University of Lancaster are two providers who would continue to run an LPC course.
City Law School also confirmed it would stick with its LPC, but would refresh the syllabus in light of any regulatory changes. However, The University of Law would not clarify whether it would continue to run its LPC course.
Late last month the University of Hertfordshire suspended its LPC over concerns that it may not be valid in 2018. Albeit that nothing is set in stone, a spokesperson for the university said:
We don’t feel we can charge £12,000 for a course that might not be valid in 2018.