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Solicitor super-exam proposals submitted for formal approval

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Regulator’s plan to scrap GDL and LPC moves one step closer to reality

The solicitor super-exam moved a step closer to fruition yesterday when the regulator’s controversial proposals were formally submitted for approval.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) plans to scrap the traditional route to qualification and replace it with a centralised assessment called the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). It has now presented its proposals to the Legal Services Board (LSB), which has 28 days to consider its decision.

A spokesperson for the SRA, commenting on the proposals, said:

“The aim of the SQE is to guarantee consistent, high standards for qualifying solicitors, as well as helping widen access to the profession. We developed our proposals by engaging with more than 10,000 people. This is the next stage in the process, and we look forward to the LSB’s decision.”

The formal submission marks a significant milestone in what has been a rocky year for the regulator.

The SRA announced last April it would be replacing traditional routes to qualification — i.e. the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) — with the SQE as early as September 2020. The new route will be split into two parts (SQE1 and SQE2) and will still require wannabe solicitors to complete a training contract.

Despite the SRA insisting it will guarantee all entrants to the profession “meet consistent, high standards” and put an end to what it calls the “LPC gamble”, not everyone welcomed the news.

The 2018 LPC Most List

As part of research commissioned by BPP University, over three quarters of the law firms questioned (77%) said they think graduates would require additional training beyond “testing preparation” for SQE1 before they enter the workplace. This is because the more practical skills currently taught on the LPC — such as drafting and advocacy — will be reserved for SQE2, which the regulator has hinted will be taught after the training contract.

City outfits have also expressed concern over the SRA’s proposed transition period.

The regulator has been open about its preference for a “lengthy transition period” during which time both the traditional route to qualification and the SQE will operate in parallel. Despite this, Legal Cheek reported last week that the City of London Law Society (CLLS) thinks City firms will likely shun a lengthy period and insist trainees sit the super-exam from 2022 onwards.

Read the proposals in full below:

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12 Comments

Anonymous

Probably a stupid question but will the GDL remain for barristers?

(8)(0)

Anonymous

So if one has the choice between doing the LPC now or waiting for the SQE, which one is the best option? Bearing in mind the law is a traditionalist profession, are firms more likely to prefer the tried and tested route to qualification?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Your best option is to do neither, and don’t be a lawyer. Save yourself while you can.

(29)(1)

James

Doing skills training after the Training Contract is so obviously a bad idea: the LPC has a lot of unhelpful stuff on, but (although it’s undermined by being assessed on a pass/fail basis) skills like writing, research and drafting are actually helpful when on your TC, far more than academic law.

(8)(2)

Westcott

Law degree
Sit Common(State) Bar exam

You are an attorney-at-law.
The public can see when you became an attorney and can make decisions on that basis.

(4)(2)

Westcott

That was a general comment, not a reply to James.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Dont do either this career is overrated

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Training Contracts were superceded in July 2014 by periods of recognised training. Sloppy journalism and reporting.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I think the CLLS is wrong about most firms wanting to change at the earliest possible moment. The talk at my firm (who take on a huge number of trainees) is about waiting until the latest possible moment to change. The current system works very well for the best of the City firms.

The worst of the problems will come about when some firms are going one route and others another. There will be confusion amongst candidates about the ‘right’ way to go when the reality is that some firms will require a prep course before a period of recognised training, which teaches useful basics like drafting, regardless of whether you’ve technically passed stage one of the SQE.

Most of you law students won’t care about this but it will make non-law student entry to the profession more difficult as without the GDL course, never mind being taught basics like drafting, how are you going to get on in a competitive market place (even assuming you’ve passed SQE 1?) Those firms who will band together to create GDL and LPC-like courses to prepare their people for practice (different again to being admitted) are not going to be thrilled at bearing the burden of training and given that the SQE 2 exam happens at the end of the period of training, trainees are not going to be thrilled with the extra burden of concurrently working and training.

The industry will adapt – will have to – t the way this entire consultation has been run is something along the lines of consulting thousands, ignoring the majorty negative view and doing it anyway. And for what? To swap what they call the LPC gamble for the SQE stage 1 gamble. Genius.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

If firms still want to recruit non-law students (which I understand they do), then they can’t just wait until the very end of the transitional arrangements to make the change for at least some of their intake.

If the changes go ahead as planned, the 2019-2020 GDL will be the last year of that course being part of the qualification process. Non-law students starting legal study after September 2020 would be going through the SQE route. Firms then have to decide whether they also move their law students onto the SQE route at that point, or run two parallel sets of training and qualification processes, which would probably be expensive and inconvenient.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

SQE2 doesn’t have to be at the end of the work experience. You could do SQE2 before any qualifying work experience, although undoubtedly the lack of experience/knowledge would make it more difficult to pass.

Some firms are suggesting that during the transition period, the SQE2 would need to be completed and passed at least 6 months prior to becoming an NQ, just so they can manage the qualification process. The problem with this is that the exams are only expected to be set every 6 months, and so a firm could need its trainees to pass stage 2 closer to 12 months prior to the qualifying work experience coming to an end.

(0)(0)

FFs

They should scrap all the bullshit extra courses altogether. They teach you absolutely nothing. You could learn it on job in two weeks or even less.

(1)(0)

Comments are closed.

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