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It’s official: The LPC and GDL are being scrapped

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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.

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.

A possible structure of the new super-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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85 Comments

Anonymous

Can you opt out of it and do LPC instead cause its essentially the same LLB but just condensed to exam format! Its absolutely useless to people already having LLB or LLM!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Hi. I got DDU at A level and Ive just finished my BA in Magazine Design with Tipex Skills (Joint Honours) at Hemel Hampstead Uni.

What are my chances of a TC at a Magic Circle firm?

Thanks!

(14)(5)

Adam Deen "Jones Day Trainee"

100% if you come to Jones Day

(11)(1)

Anonymous

Does anyone know whether this will affect someone supposed to be starting an accelerated LPC Jan 2018 and starting TC September 2018?

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Obviously not, read above.

(4)(2)

Anonymous

still don’t get the weird thinking that some people have that if you want to be a lawyer but don’t want to study law as a degree, firms should not disadvantage you.
that’s bull, you made the choice don’t go on blaming the firms if they don’t want a film graduate with one year of GDL training and boasts they are just as knowledgeable in law as a law grad

(15)(0)

Anonymous

I think the more relevant thing here is that potentially the comparison would be between people who haven’t done the GDL, and those who have done a law degree, in which case I completely agree that it’s more likely to be a factor. But within the current system you seem to set too much store by a law degree – anyone can learn the knowledge of the law; what matters is the ability to reason and think logically which, arguably, is provided to an even greater extent by other degrees.

(2)(12)

Anonymous

I really disagree, if you take your law degree seriously (by which I mean aiming for a first) at a reputable uni your intellectual capacity of reasoning and logical thinking will be taxed to your breaking point. There’s a reason why law degrees have considerably lower distinction rates than other subjects, there much more nuances and current developments to take note of on top of employing the massive knowledge bank you have in your head.

it also explains the ridiculously difficult admission criteria (at top unis of course) for law compared to other degrees

(6)(1)

Anonymous

judicial reasoning is different from your plebeian concept of reasoning bruh, and the former can’t be learnt without extensive study into different areas of law over 3 years. remembering the LPC, i recall many times where a non-law dude’s reasoning was sub-par compared to the rigorous standard demanded of law students in uni

(3)(1)

Tim NicebutDim

But how many people actually know they want to be a lawyer at 17/18 when they apply to university?

(2)(2)

Anonymous

unfortunately you can also say the same for many other degrees. professional degrees like law medicine or accounting is just quite different

(3)(1)

Anonymous

This will just shift the problem up the line to “NQs”. People will take the exams and do 2 years of work, becoming “qualified solicitors” but then what? The bottleneck will then exist for people who are newly qualified except there will be a vast range of quality in applicants depending on what they have done in their 2 years of work experience. This new scheme will have all the 9-5 paraweasels thinking they’re qualified lawyers without having to do a TC.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

Correct. It will be the same as it is in the US, with lots of “qualified lawyers” & few jobs.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Those so-called “paraweasels” WILL be “qualified lawyers”. Don’t be mad!

(0)(1)

LordShuffle

What happen for those Bar Professional or LLB graduates who are still job seekers?
Are the new qualifications will rule over the previous qualifications in the coming 2020s?
What if the recruiters make the new qualifications rule over the actual qualifications – will the SRA gonna stand for these Bar/LLB graduants?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The format of the exams looks like the QLTS. Was it modelled after such exam?

(0)(0)

Tim Higham

The P of the LPC has needed looking at for years, as I have never been convinced of the quality of those teaching conveyancing to (huge fee paying) students, and they then bring too much theorry when they start a training contract.

Get ‘in practice’ solicitors to teach, it is crucial. Theorists , however academic, not helping students.

(0)(0)

John Cleese

Right, as a penultimate year non-law student at UCL, on track for a 2.1 (I’ve kissed goodbye to SandM), I’m split between a career in commercial law and a career in investment banking. I’ve done far more legal work experience stuff so far and appreciate I may be leaving it a bit late to do IB stuff (Spring Weeks etc. are for first years I believe), but essentially, I realise either way I’m setting myself up for a hard time made worthwhile by the ££ amongst a few other things. If money is to be my chief motivator through the tough times (and don’t go off on the whole ‘it’s about more than money blah blah’), should I go in for a career in IB or commercial law? I reckon I have the skills for either (surprisingly numerate for a History student), but the prospect of going straight in and earning in IB rather than going through the GDL/LPC is becoming more an more appealing atm. Legalcheek, please offer me some sage advice and witty banter.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Mate, my skills and education are much better than yours. I have a photography degree from the University of Westminster and I also “reckon I have the skills for either”.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Excellent idea. End the closed shop once and for all.

(0)(2)

Anonymous

If one of the reasons the Law Society have introduced this is to save students money, and to prevent students leaving the LPC and GDL with no training contract in place. Why don’t they instead, put more pressure on providers to lower the price of the courses (by creating a lower national cap) and/or putting in place reasonable admissions criteria i.e. 2:1 or above, unlike BPP and UoL who offer places for those with 2:2s who have no reasonable chance of securing a training contract.

The structure of the exam also seems absurd, making law grads pay to essentially re-cap law they have already learnt (and already paid for!). How does this fit in with the Law Society’s aim of saving students crucial cash?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

They’re private providers, how can they put pressure on these private companies to lower their prices?

There’s people with 2.1s who can’t even secure TCs.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Just in case anyone’s interested, I made an FOI request to the SRA for their modelled costs of the SQA. Their response was:

I am unable to release the information that you have requested as it is exempt from
disclosure under Qualified Limitation 23 of our Transparency Code.
Qualified Limitation 23 – a trade secret or is or would be likely to prejudice the
commercial interests of any person including us.
The information is highly confidential because it is relevant to a competitive tender
process we will be issuing to source an assessment organisation to work with us to
deliver the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
The assessment organisation will be entitled to charge SQE candidate fees. Bidders’
assessment of the costs of the contract will drive their financial model and the fee
level which they propose. We therefore want to ensure the most competitive bidding
process possible. If we were to release our internal modelling it could set market
expectations and undermine the competitive nature of the process. This could result
in candidates being charged higher fees.
Therefore, we can’t release the information you have requested to you.
A qualified limitation requires the application of a public interest test in determining
whether the information should be released.
Disclosure under the Transparency Code is disclosure to the world at large and any
public interest balancing exercise is assessed on that basis, not based on an
assessment of an individual requestor’s interest in seeing the information they have
requested.
We have concluded that it is in the public interest to maintain confidentiality as it is in
the interest of the profession as a whole to ensure a competitive tender process is
followed.
We therefore find that the public interest in withholding the requested information
outweighs the public interest in disclosing it into the public domain at this time.

(0)(0)

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