But solicitors’ regulator performs U-turn on degree requirement
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.