Advice

Super-exam: Frequently Asked Questions about the SQE

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Clarity among confusion as SRA confirms it will scrap the LPC and GDL

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced it will kill off both the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) in favour of a centralised super-exam by as early as 2020.

The news has shocked the aspiring solicitor community, and Legal Cheek has been inundated with questions via our comments section and social media. In the hope of bringing clarity to the situation, we have answered some of your more frequently asked questions below.

1. Anonymous (via Legal Cheek comments): I just started the LPC. What does this mean for me?

The SRA plans to roll out the new Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) as early as September 2020, so students taking vocational postgraduate courses until then will be expected to follow the traditional routes. If you start your LLB before August 2020, you will have the option of taking the traditional route to qualification or the new super-exam route after graduating. Those students embarking on their law degree after that date will have to take the new route.

2. Catherine Duggan (via Facebook): How much will the exam cost?

The short answer is we don’t know. The SRA has said on a number of occasions that it will be cheaper than the current route. Its education director Julie Brannan went as far as to say “substantially cheaper”. We will know more once the regulator has consulted with both law schools (which will provide the preparation courses) and independent organisations (which will handle the examinations).

3. Helmi_xo (via Instagram): Any news about the format of the exam?

The SQE is likely to be split into two parts (see table below). Part one, similar to the GDL, will examine functioning legal knowledge such as commercial, property and criminal law. Part two, which will be undertaken after a wannabe lawyer has completed their training contract, will test a candidate’s practical legal skills such as advocacy, drafting and interviewing.

A possible structure of the new super-exam

4. Anon (via Legal Cheek comments): So could you become a solicitor without even having a law degree?

Back in the super-exam’s early consultation stages, the idea of allowing anyone, non-graduates included, to sit it was floated. However it has since been confirmed you will still need an undergraduate degree “or equivalent” to take the exam.

5. Luckyheatherg (via Twitter): Does it look possible the bar will follow suit?

Maybe. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is currently debating a vocational education shake-up of its own, and has now approved radical plans that could see the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) split into two parts. You can find out more on this here.

6. Anonymous (via Legal Cheek comments): Has EU law disappeared from the syllabus?

EU law — along with contract, crime, equity and trusts, property, public law and tort — is one of the core modules found in qualifying law degrees and on the GDL. According to the table above, it looks like EU law has been bumped off the list. However, an SRA spokesperson told us:

EU law will be included as part of the Stage 1 Functioning Legal Knowledge Assessment. The areas of law listed were those that were part of the original consultation document. This will be developed more thoroughly as we go through the implementation stage.

7. Josh Battat (via Facebook): Will this change the nature of the training contract?

While you will still need to do two years’ qualifying work experience to become a solicitor, it looks like the SRA’s requirements on this will be more flexible. These two years can be made up of work experience at a maximum of four organisations, including paralegaling and pro bono work at university law clinics. Under the new approach, there is no need for a “block two-year training contract”. However, large City firms are likely to stick with this traditional training format.

8. Chloe Cardwell (via Facebook): If I have an LPC qualification will this affect its credibility in the future?

There are some fears things could go the other way. An independent report into the SQE has said that “high performing candidates” who have completed “traditional” education have been recruited into law firms for many years. From this, it could be inferred that law firms may be wary of recruiting lawyers from new, non-traditional backgrounds (i.e. the super-exam). However, this is only speculation at this stage and we will know more about the super-exam’s reputation as and when it is rolled out.

You can watch our Facebook discussion on the new exam format and how it will affect you below:

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20 Comments

Anonymous

I’m a bit disappointed about the answer to no 7.

As this is a rampantly disablist profession that has historically installed a rigid low-level glass ceiling, preventing Deaf and disabled people from coming in, I had hoped that the SQE would have been a way around this. If they’re good enough to pass the exam, then get out of their way.

(0)(7)

RE THE LANDLORD ARTICLE

Disgraceful that LC should publish an article and then allow the snowflake writer to have all the negative comments deleted and edit the original article to make it sound (slightly) less misogynistic.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Tim you forgot to put your name in your comment.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

That’s because of people pretending to be me, Mr Anonymous.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Sounds like they are following the model used by the Law Society of Ireland. The first exams under the Irish system is effectively the GDL exams with the GDL course (unless you want to pay a private provider to “tutor” you, which will be the generally be composed of the non-law graduates. Like Barbri and the new york bar. The first SQE exams sound much the same.

You then you do your training contract which is spit up by attending the law society (in Ireland, law society is an educator, regulator and representative) for the LPC equivalent.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I don’t think two months of cramming with the Barbri equivalent prep school for sqe 1 can be considered the equivalent of a 3 year law degree or GDL

(1)(0)

Anonymous

One ways of quality control will be having fixed term 5 months paralegaling contracts, so people cannot use our firm’s name and brand to qualify.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Why would you want to prevent a good paralegal from qualifying? Why have to rehire every 5 months, retrain etc? Either firms will need to stop relying on paralegals to do the work of solicitors at half the cost, or let good paralegals stay and qualify. TCs currently allow poor performing trainees to qualify.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

“8. Chloe Cardwell (via Facebook): If I have an LPC qualification will this affect its credibility in the future?”

Ulaw and BPP have already done enough to undermine the LPC’s credibility.

(7)(2)

Anonymous

I really think this idea is crazy…

So where did you train as a solicitor?
Individual X – I trained at [insert name of magic / silver circle firm]

Individual Y – I trained at my uni for a couple months, my local CAB, this business and some law firm around the corner…

It’s just going excite people to THINK they’re qualified solicitors but there will still be favouritism and division

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Although there are many reasons and benefits for the training period/qualify work experience to be split across multiple employers, the SRA seem to have completely ignored everyone’s concerns around university legal centres/clinics being eligible for QWE. As you have suggested, it is only going to lead to people assuming they can qualify quicker with that experience when technically they will be seen as over qualified but under experienced by the vast majority of firms.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

As a person who has somehow got through a degree, the GDL, the LPC and managed to get a TC I can safely say I couldn’t give a hoot about any of this.

Good luck to anyone trying to enter this pain in the arse profession.

(8)(0)

Anon

Surely it’s useful to study the professional skills such as research and drafting BEFORE your TC/training period??

Don’t really see the point of going back and doing it after (from a training point of view – not how it affects expense/risk to those starting the SQE before they have work experience lined up

(0)(0)

Anonymous

under the current ILEX regulation, it is possible to become a solicitor after 3 years of being a chartered legal executive.

It will be interesting if the sra will continue to allow this route of qualification.

#waiting

(1)(0)

Bob

Wait, so does this mean that a film studies student could now qualify as a solicitor even without doing a GDL?

(4)(0)

QLTS

The super exam is basically the current QLTS route. It seems to me as if the SRA is trying to harmonise all the routes to qualification i.e. (1) Old TC route (2) QLTS/ QLTT and (3) now QBE route via super-exam.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Based on the QLTS, but with more assessments and a requirement to gain two years worth of work experience.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I will be graduating next year (2018), do I have to wait until 2020 to take the SQE?

(0)(0)

Paige R.

I am due to start my LPC in September this year, but am now trying to give this careful consideration. Is it thought that prospective LPC students should hold off until the new exam comes into play if they dont have a guaranteed training contract? I don’t want to go through the LPA and not land a TC in time and then it become worthless and have to do the new SQE on top?

Does anyone have any knowledge on this?

(0)(1)

Paige R.

I am due to start my LPC in September this year, but am now trying to give this careful consideration. Is it thought that prospective LPC students should hold off until the new exam comes into play if they dont have a guaranteed training contract? I don’t want to go through the LPC and not land a TC in time and then it become worthless and have to do the new SQE on top?

Does anyone have any knowledge on this?

(1)(1)

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