Barristers will have a better grasp of the law than solicitors under proposed changes to legal education, university academics warn

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SRA super-exam takes another bashing


Law academics think the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) proposed changes to legal education are “fundamentally flawed” and will mean barristers are better educated in law than solicitors, a new report has revealed.

Aspiring solicitors may see the route to qualification drastically change in the next few years, as the SRA is considering scrapping the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for a cheaper ‘super-exam’. The hope is that this will make legal education more affordable, but there are widespread concerns that the proposed route is not as rigorous as that which is in place now.

This fear is shared by the Society of Legal Scholars (SLS), which represents just under 3,000 law lecturers and other professionals in the United Kingdom.

In response to a recent SRA consultation into the super-exam (full name the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE)), the SLS has said solicitors’ knowledge of the law under these changes would be, at best, “very superficial”.

Later in the report, the SLS lambasted the “two-tier occupation” the introduction of the SQE would bring about. A future solicitor who is “merely” SQE accredited will not have the same “depth of knowledge of law” as a more traditionally educated professional, it said. Even the existence of a “small number of SQE-only solicitors” will “damage the reputation of all solicitors”; “how will consumers know which kind of solicitor they are employing?”

Perhaps the most damning revelation came when the SLS berated the potential discrepancy between the barrister and solicitor route to qualification under the SQE. In its consultation response, the SLS said the exam in effect means:

[T]he profession will become one where a person will be able to qualify as a practitioner without having studied at degree level and been assessed at that level on the core building blocks of the knowledge needed for that profession. The bar, which is unlikely to make the same mistake, will truly be able to say that barristers are better educated in the law than solicitors.

With little good to say about the super-exam, it’s unsurprising the SLS concludes the impacts of the proposals “will be negative”.

The SRA is currently considering the feedback to its consultation and will be publishing a response later in the year.

Read the full SLS report here:

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