Solicitor super-exam will replace traditional routes to qualification as soon as September 2020
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has this morning confirmed it will be scrapping legal education and solicitor qualification as we know it.
Sounding the death knell for the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the regulator will soon be rolling out an independent, centralised assessment, which we’ve nicknamed the solicitor super-exam. It’s anticipated this could happen as early as September 2020.
What do you think of the @sra_solicitors' super-exam proposals?
— Legal Cheek (@legalcheek) February 15, 2017
The SRA believes the new solicitor assessment will guarantee all entrants to the profession “meet consistent, high standards” — just one of many reasons it gives for the introduction of the super-exam. As has long been the regulator’s position, it believes the super-exam will be cheaper for aspiring lawyers and will end what it calls the “LPC gamble”. This is where aspiring solicitors are forced to pay large, up-front costs — as much as £15,740 for students starting the LPC this year — “with no guarantee of a training contract”.
The regulator also believes the new route to qualification will help widen access to the profession, and claims “support for the principle of an independent assessment” comes from groups such as the Law Society and the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD). However, do note that in 2015 then Law Society chief Jonathan Smithers said the super-exam would benefit “wealthier” students and could “promote nepotism”.
More recently, the JLD relayed similar concerns, stating:
At present, as the LPC is compulsory to qualify as a solicitor, banks offer specialist loans to assist students. If the preparatory course will not be compulsory, the JLD is concerned that these loans will be unavailable to students, and only those with sufficient financial means will be able to qualify as a solicitor.
Despite these concerns, the SRA is pushing ahead and will “soon” appoint an assessment organisation for the super-exam (full name the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE)). For those mid-way through their solicitor qualification, the SRA says you “will have the choice of which route to follow — the existing route or the SQE — for a number of years.”
Though substantive details on the SQE are still thin of the ground, the SRA has proposed what it calls “a possible structure” of the new exam.
The plan is to split the super-exam into two parts, with part one substantially cheaper than part two. The parts will be divided by a training contract-style period of learning on the job, meaning an aspiring solicitor yet to secure training with a firm will be taking on less financial risk than they are at present with the “LPC gamble”.
The SRA also plans to introduce more flexibility in defining what a training contract actually is; paralegal work, work in a university’s law office and more could soon count towards your solicitor training. Indeed, under the new regime the term ‘training contract’ won’t be used, with the SRA asking instead for “two years of qualifying legal work experience”.
Both law degree and non-law degree holders will be able to sit the exam. It will also be possible for aspiring solicitors going through the apprenticeship route to qualification to sit it too.
Read the report in full below:
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