ULaw comes out swinging against solicitor super-exam as SRA consultation ends

Big changes to legal education ahead

super-exam-lead

The University of Law’s (ULaw) CEO has rounded on proposed changes to legal education which she thinks will leave trainees with such insufficient knowledge law firms may have to run additional courses to fill the gaps.

Speaking about the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and its plans to replace the ‘LLB -> LPC -> TC’ route to qualification with a centralised assessment, ULaw’s Professor Andrea Nollent said:

Although we don’t oppose the concept of centralised examinations, we disagree that the proposed SQE will be a robust and effective measure of competence.

The SQE is only at the consultation stage and there are a lot of details still thin on the ground, such as the extent to which the exam will be open to non-degree holders.

What we do know is that, in its proposed form, the SQE is split into two parts. One exam will be taken by aspiring lawyers before the training contract commences and the other at the end of the training contract. Part one is set to be the cheapest, and part two more expensive as it will require the testing of practical skills.

Clearer still is the momentum behind its introduction: to make qualification more affordable. Speaking exclusively to Legal Cheek, SRA education director Julie Brannan lamented the current high cost of the LPC, especially when studied in London, and said the proposed super-exam would be “more affordable”.

And while Nollent had said ULaw welcomes “the desirability of widening participation in the profession”, she doesn’t believe that the proposals will achieve its aims. She added:

[T]he SQE will be too superficial in stage one and too narrow and restricted in stage two to properly assess the competence needed for trainee or qualified solicitors to safely act for the public. In particular, the loss of elective subjects means that the level of understanding of key practice areas will inevitably be lower under the SQE regime than the current one. Firms will find their trainees will not have the subject knowledge of the area they are working on, nor the same level of skills in applying knowledge to practice areas that current trainees have.

Nollent continued:

We anticipate that many law firms will require additional courses to be undertaken before the period of work-based learning commences to make up for the competence gap. These courses will add to the cost of training, and potentially end up costing students more than the current LPC.

The SRA’s consultation into the SQE ends today, so expect more details soon.

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23 Comments

Anonymous

They will obviously come out with this kind of message even if the proposals for the SQE were far more substantial/thorough. They have got to protect their stronghold of the legal qualifications market somehow, and at a time when the reputation of the business has become less and less each year.

One of the good things about the proposals is that there is a decent chance that the 1st set of assessments will be taught within undergraduate degrees, and if this happens then UoL will lose out. For all its flaws, this is one of the benefits of the SQE proposals.

(14)(3)
Summer

Even if they have the ulterior motive of being worried for their business prospects, ULaw are still absolutely right. Anyone wanting to go into any niche area if law beyond the basics of personal injury, employment and corporate – all of which are entirely oversubscribed as it is – may as well not bother with the SQE for all the good it will do them.

Also, I think ULaw teach the undergrad degree now so they are probably covered 🙄

The reputation of the profession is being slaughtered by an irresponsible media and an incompetent government. The proposed SQE change is like putting a plaster on a limb amputation.

(7)(0)
Anonymous

Do you think the LPC really covers those niches sufficiently though?

(0)(0)
Summer

The options are there – intellectual property, commercial real estate, family, private client etc etc.

(3)(0)
Anonymous

But wouldn’t that knowledge really be gathered through the on-the-job training (like it is now)?

People who end up in intellectual property don’t have to have studied an IP elective.

(1)(1)
Mira

How likely are they to try a seat there if they’ve had no previous knowledge or experience of it? Not likely at all I don’t think.

(1)(2)
Anonymous

IP wasn’t an option given the firm I worked for’s elective preferences, but plenty of trainees still sat in IP and some of those qualified there every 6 months.

(1)(0)
Summer

That might be so for a few firms, but on the whole i still think it’s unlikely that bland and generic subjects that the SQE proposes to cover are just not good enough. Just because there aren’t better plans out there doesn’t mean everyone opts for the cheapest bad idea available.

(0)(0)
Patty

Walking in the preesnce of giants here. Cool thinking all around!

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Non-law MC associate here – I didn’t have the choice of electives in IP/Pensions or any of that, and I still had seats in Pensions and IP in my TC, and ended up qualifying in Pensions – no matter what we say, you learn zilch useful stuff on the GDL/LPC at present. I don’t know much, but the little I do know was learnt on the job at my firm. I think that’s true for most decent firms.

And I think that’s the issue, in a sense – for those trainees who can’t get good on-the-job training, life can be tough.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

UoL currently only compete for the LPC with Sheffield, BPP and a number of old poly-tech unis.

Should the proposed changes happen, they could easily be competing with any university that provides a law degree for the first stages of the SQE, including a whole swathe of reputable universities who have a much stronger reputation globally than them.

(4)(0)
Josh

This is a great idea . Legal education is without doubt way too expensive and it’s great the sra has FINALLY latched on to that

(7)(1)
Snow

How neat! Is it really this sielmp? You make it look easy.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Of course ULol will come out swinging against it – they’re poised to get wrecked if such a thing was implemented.

(4)(0)
AOtrainee

LPC is an absolute waste of time and money. Most of the basic drafting and researching skills are learnt at undergrad level. Never used LPC info during my TC. Shut down ULaw and BPP asap!! 😀

(8)(8)
Mira

This apparent hatred of the LPC… you have to wonder whether it’s objective comment or just sour grapes from hopeful but failed training contract applicants. Unfortunately the SQE will do absolutely nothing to change that.

(6)(2)
Mira

😄😄😄 marketing lady?!! Try Associate Solicitor at Tier 1 healthcare firm. Grow up 🙄

(4)(8)
Clergs

Megaheh @ “Associate Solicitor at Tier 1 healthcare firm” commenting shit on a two-bit legal blog.

Go back to billing fucko. 😂

(6)(0)

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