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SRA moves a step closer to killing off LPC and GDL as super-exam proposals gather pace

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But solicitors’ regulator performs U-turn on degree requirement

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The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has moved a step closer to scrapping the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), with the launch of its second super-exam consultation.

Adding another nail in the LPC/GDL coffin, the SRA appears keen to push on with its radical overhaul of legal education, despite the negative feedback received earlier this year. Back in March, the solicitors’ regulator received over 240 responses to its initial super-exam consultation. Of these, almost 200 raised concerns about the proposals.

The central assessment — or Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE), to give it its official title — will effectively combine elements of the LPC and GDL. Launching its second consultation today, the SRA revealed more tantalising details regarding its new exam format.

Split into two parts, stage one will test wannabe lawyers “functioning legal knowledge”. This will examine students’ ability to apply their legal knowledge, assessing areas of land law, criminal practice and principles of professional conduct.

Meanwhile, stage two will assess students’ “practical legal skills”, such as their ability to interview a client, oral advocacy and drafting skills. According to the new proposals, stage one will be completed before students start their training contract, while stage two will be undertaken on completion of their practical training. If given the green light, the new proposals will come into effect in August 2019.

Potentially sounding the death knell for both the LPC and GDL, director of education and training at the SRA Julie Brannan told Legal Cheek:

The new proposals would mean students would no longer require the LPC, saving them up to £15,000, making the route to qualification substantially more affordable.

Highlighting the fluctuating LPC pass rates across providers, Brannan suggested the new exam format — that will be centrally controlled by the SRA — will produce a “more consistent route” to qualification. Continuing, she said:

Since the last consultation we have listened and talked to a lot of people. The case for the SQE is strong because is creates a single approach to assessing solicitors.

But it would appear that some concessions have been made. Earlier this year one major point of contention was the suggestion that the exam would be open to non-graduates. Effectively allowing anyone off the street to take a punt at the assessment, the SRA, addressing these concerns, confirmed today that those wishing to qualify as a solicitor must “hold a degree, apprenticeship or equivalent”.

The consultation runs until 9 January 2017 and can be found here.

Read the proposals in full below:

32 Comments

Why

Can we get a refund then??! 🙂

(24)(2)

Peter Crispo

No.

(6)(4)

Anonymous

What happens to the GDL for students wanting to pursue the Bar? will they have to combine them too?

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Maybe they would be advised to do one of the two year LLBs on offer. Those are much better quality anyway.

(1)(6)

Anonymous

And spend £18,000+ in the process, yay!

(8)(0)

Anonymous

It’s another undergrad, so more student loans for everyone! Huzzah for declaring bankcruptcy!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Bankruptcy doesn’t affect your Student Loan Agreement. Your employer will deduct what you owe through PAYE – bankrupt or not.

Government always gets its money. Student Loans are just a 50% tax rate through the back door.

Anonymous

50% tax rate through the back door? I’m fairly certain my student loan isn’t costing my half of my net salary…

Anonymous

I think he means 50 = current income tax rate + your student debt repayment

Anonymous

This has been rumbling on ever since the LETR which started over 4 years ago now, and they have only got to a second draft recommendation that is still going to have plenty of disapproval.

The SRA are crazy if they think they will really get this through by 2019, especially if this consultation runs into 2017.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Anyone else find the new system confusing AF?

(1)(1)

Anonymous

If the pass rates for the SQE are anything like those for the QLTS (which this system is being modelled on), there is going to be a distinct lack of qualified lawyers in 5-8 years time.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Fantastic news then – the ones who qualify will be able to command higher salaries.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Anything that will help to end the complete exploitation of students by LPC providers can only be a good thing.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

They are still going to exploit people. Instead of selling GDL/LPC courses, they will sell SQE preparation courses. You only have to look at the costs of the QLTS prep courses they sell to see they won’t be cheap, despite the SRA thinking they will be.

And those courses/modules will be able to be purchased multiple times – the desperate/vulnerable who don’t pass first time will sit the course again in the hope of passing next time. Those who are scared of not passing will purchase “bolt on” modules or extra coaching/tuition.

If anything the likes of BPP and UoL are probably very happy with the suggested recommendations. They will be able to develop courses that are far less regulated (and therefore cheaper to run), they will have less accountability if their students don’t pass the SQE (as it is only a “prep” course they are providing), and are likely to make more profit from them.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Kaplan Law School is already itching to retool its entire operation to fit right into the SQE prep mills which will rise soon after this ‘super exam’ is set out.

Given they conceded defeat to BPP and ULaw on the GDL/LPC battlefield, they’re bound to want to come back with a vengeance.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

If anything Kaplan will be the assessor organisation like it is for the QLTS. They very cleverly worked out where this was going and jumped from providing law school courses to being the assessor. Why try and sell courses to people when you can get paid to manage the examination process everyone goes through?

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Interesting opinion.

Anonymous

Work based learning includes “working in a student law clinic”.

I can see universities bulking up their student legal clinics and creating SQE 1 and 2 prep courses, to then try and churn out “qualified lawyers”.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

It will be interesting to see how they count this experience. Will one hour a week for a term in a student law clinic count the same as three months of full time work in a firm?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

This isn’t going to happen, because it’s fucking moronic.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

That’s not the measure of how things happen, unfortunately.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

The same thing was said about Brexit.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

More short cutting by the SRA

(4)(0)

Plumber to Lawyer

‘…must “hold a degree, apprenticeship or equivalent”…’

Apprenticeships, degrees and equivalents of what kind?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I would expect that by “equivalent” they mean those with another professional qualification, such as chartered accountants.

(0)(0)

Just cray

Right so they’ve managed to come up with something that’s worse then the LPC! Genuinely bravo – didn’t think that would be possible!

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I hope they publish the list of successful applicants.

Then the professional indemnity claimant lawyers can find them on the findasolicitor website, trace their clients and sue them for professional negligence. On balance, they will not be as skilled as those with a longer and more focussed route to qualification.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

As someone who will start the TC in 2017 and is set to qualify in September 2019, I really want to know if I’ll have to do the exam on the off-chance that it’s ready by then.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

No – the existing route will still be around until 2024 and so you wouldn’t need to do either set of exams.

(0)(0)

Humanities Grad

As I understand it there is to be a scoring system on this new course but no grade beyond ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. From a recruiting perspective for TC’s surely this puts more of an onus upon a candidates original degree / educational grades. Therefore, wouldn’t this deter many from studying law at undergraduate; pursuing a degree which is statistically easier than law to do well in, and then converting across?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

The report states:

We would provide candidates with their scores for each of the modules, but we would not
provide grades for the examinations beyond “pass” or “fail”.

So it sounds like they will get grades for modules, just not for exams.

It would be no different to the system now though. Many people are recruited before studying the GDL/LPC, so there is already a reliance on degree results.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.