Three-quarters of firms will require extra training for graduates once super-exam comes in

By on

City concerned by SQE knowledge gap, report suggests

New research into the solicitor super-exam paints a dreary picture, with few firms and students feeling positive about the plans.

The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is set to replace more traditional routes to qualification come 2020, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) hoping it will be a cheaper, but still rigorous, route to qualification.

Law students have expressed concern and confusion about the super-exam, and we bet they won’t be best pleased to hear firms’ views on the provision of training post-SQE.

As part of new research commissioned by BPP University, firms were asked to rank key skills that are not tested on the pre-training contract element of the SQE (SQE1). The majority of firms threw their weight behind skills such as drafting and advocacy, describing training in these areas as “important” or “very important”.

Despite their importance, these skills are not tested on the SQE as they are now on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) — a fact 63% of law firm respondents admitted they were unaware of. More practical skills which are now taught on the LPC are reserved for SQE2, which the SRA has implied will be taught after the training contract has been completed.

This may not be good news for aspiring solicitors. The majority (77%) of firms said they think graduates would require additional training beyond “testing preparation” for SQE1 before they enter the workplace. At “larger firms”, defined at those with more than £30 million annual turnover, 56% said that they would seek to provide training beyond this test preparation, while 18% of smaller firms agreed.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

This comes weeks after Legal Cheek revealed firms are pushing to bring the entire super-exam before graduates’ period of work-based training, i.e. their training contract.

We reported in October that City law firms are understandably concerned by the disruption the new centralised exam may cause to their qualification process (a statement that’s been further evidenced by today’s latest research) and are hoping its training contract sandwich layout will be reconsidered. Perhaps more surprising is the SRA’s response to this concern. At a recent super-exam event, an SRA representative was asked about the requirement of work-based training. Enquiring about its length, the questioner asked: “Could this period be as little as one day?” The SRA spokesperson replied: That is “open to discussion”.

Jo-Anne Pugh, BPP’s strategic director of programme design and development, used the foreword to the research to express concern about firms’ approach to training. She said:

“Firms largely remain worried that important legal subject areas, previously taught on the LPC, will not be tested by the SQE and that key skills are now only going to be tested after a period of qualifying work experience. Consequently, several firms have indicated that they wish to compensate for these deficiencies with additional training in missing but crucial areas of the law and by requiring that key skills are taught before candidates can enter the workplace.”

She later added:

“[I]t may make sense for law firms and students to see the SQE as an essential ‘floor’ for legal training rather than a sufficient ceiling.”

Overall, the research, carried out by trendence UK, finds just 18% of firms are feeling positive about the new exam.

And law students don’t seem all that enthralled by the SQE either.

Of the law students surveyed, 43% said they’re “worried” about the changes being introduced by the SRA, as did 43% of non-law students asked. One law student said they’re worried the SQE will make it “too easy” to qualify, “thereby cheapening the work we have already put in”. Another said: “I’m already halfway through my LPC and I’m not sure if employers will now view the LPC as a lesser qualification.”

While worry seems to be a key feature here, a fair whack of students seem oblivious to the whole super-exam debacle.

Forty-four percent of law students and 42% of non-law students said they’re unaware of the qualification changes being introduced by the SRA. And, 20% of law students and 48% of law students don’t even know what the SRA is.

UPDATE: 12:30pm Monday 20 November

The SRA has now responded to the report. A spokesperson said:

“The report highlights many of the potential benefits of the SQE, including the opening up of the apprentice route into the profession. We have said that we will be working hard over the next three years to make sure students and aspiring solicitors are fully aware of the changes and transition arrangements, and the report supports our thinking. We look forward to working with training providers such as BPP to get the message out about these changes.”

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub



Hence new SQE supplement training sessions will be sold by private centres to provide addendum skills and keep that money coming in. Kerching!!



To say the the LPC actually “tested” drafting or advocacy is a bit of a stretch anyway…


Not Amused

“As part of new research commissioned by BPP University”

That’s all I needed to be told.


Charlotte Proudman






Frustrated Writer

As usual, Katie was the first into the Legal Cheek office. Alex rarely showed up before lunchtime, and when he did he reeked of booze. She stared forlornly at the small, tired desk where she typed out her “stories”. It was bathed in a yellowy light in the low winter sun. A small plant wilted nearby.

Was this what she expected life to be like? Was it for this that she spent years studying and revising, highlighting texts with bright pink, blue and green pens?

She snapped off the light, and went back down the stairs. Gino’s was across the way, offering laughter and a hot coffee.

Her phone buzzed. “Lady Hale is in court today wearing a unicorn broach. From, A Friend.” She looked wildly at the number, and didn’t recognise it.

This was her chance. This was a chance to meet Lady Hale and breakthrough her tough exterior.

She ran for the bus, heading towards Parliament Square.



Nice try. Too short.


Frustrated Writer

It wasn’t me, I’d never write anything that short! Nice to see you appropriating some of my ideas (e.g. Alex being drunk, Gino’s café). I think, If I’m being critical, you’re not really building an arc – beginning middle and end of the story. Also, Katie having an existential crisis has an echo with Tom’s similar thoughts that you did in your last bootleg story.



I am not sure that the core elements are your ideas, as such. Your writing stems from the comedy or tragedy of a widely read legal commentary being written by young former law students who have tried but failed to turn professional. Your ideas are intrinsically linked to the subject matter, as are the ideas of this newcomer . The main gist of your idea is to troll the two former students and their host wittily. Here Katie has been trolled wittily by the pretend tip off of Lady Hale wearing a unicorn brooch in court today. The rest is faux tragic padding around that. I thought it was funny. I think you are very good indeed and I have said before you should try more challenging subject matter than this.



And that’s not how you spell brooch.



You are so f*cking smart.



I have always pictured Katie King when at her best, smelling of warm croissants , but at her worst, Imagine to smell of ‘roll your own’ cigarettes and dank laundry



Katie King enters a room. The room was silent before she entered. Her mere presence fills the room with the mellow sounds of Pachelbel. She glides across the room like the pianist’s fingers over the keys. She turns heads, her red dress lighting up the room.



Her perfume the scent of a thousand rose petals. She is thunder and lightning. She is a firework of the most explosive nature. She broke Tetris as a child. The blocks always fit. Her reptilian skin so smooth.



Her lustful venom enchanting the men and women that gather. Her charm limitless, but her love under lock and key. She is open like a library book, but closed like a tulip before spring. The glow of hope keeps them going. For now.



These Frustrated Writer impersonators are failing tragically.



Frustraited Waiter

No, you cannot substitute the tinned tomato for oak smoked salmon, you c*nt.


Deed U No

British PM Harold Macmillan who had once been asked, what politicians (and Bureaucrats) should fear?
His answer was:
Events, dear boy, events.!



I suspect that the change firms fear most is that their abundant supply of supremely qualified and simultaneously cheap paralegals is going to dry up. More in line with other professions like accountancy, people getting the right experience will be able to become fully qualified without needing some sort of subjective endorsement from their current employer. Suddenly the work previously done by solicitors, now done by legally trained (up to LPC) paralegals, is going to have to be done by solicitors again.

So, they’ve teamed up with BPP, who are set to lose a lot of money when the curtain closes on their overpriced GDL and LPC qualifications, to write this report.


Comments are closed.

Related Stories