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Solicitor super-exam one step closer to reality following watchdog approval

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Goodbye LPC and GDL?

The regulator’s plans to overhaul legal education moved a step closer to reality today, after its application to introduce a centralised super-exam was approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB).

The LSB — an independent body responsible for overseeing the regulation of lawyers across England and Wales — said today’s approval provides the framework upon which the regulator can seek to introduce a requirement for would-be solicitors “to pass a centralised assessment”.

Simply, today’s announcement means the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can now put in motion its plans to replace traditional routes to qualification with an all-encompassing super-exam.

LSB chief executive, Neil Buckley, said: “We have today agreed the first stage of the SRA’s reforms to its qualification processes. The changes that the SRA wishes to make are significant and stakeholders have identified a range of associated risks. We assessed the current approved application thoroughly with these risks in mind and concluded that there are no grounds for refusing this application.”

The 2018 LPC Most List

But there is still a long way to go before the regulator’s Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) dream reaches fruition. Something Buckley was keen to point out:

“The approval of this application on its own is not sufficient to allow the SQE to be implemented. The SRA will need to make and we will need to approve further rules changes to give effect to the requirement to pass a centralised exam. When considering these further rules and deciding whether to agree with them, the LSB will expect to see more detail from the SRA — particularly on how the SQE will operate, what it will cost and the likely diversity impacts.”

The provisional go-ahead comes less than two weeks after the Justice Committee penned a public letter to the LSB requesting that it delays its decision. The missive, signed by committee chair and ex-criminal barrister Bob Neill, urged the legal watchdog to defer its decision for six months “to enable the SRA’s application to be given more careful scrutiny”.

Commenting on today’s approval, Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:

“Confirmation that we can press ahead with the development of the SQE gives employers and education providers the surety they need to plan fully for its introduction. Law firms and academic institutions can now design approaches to recruitment and training which reflect their specific needs.”

Last April, the regulator trumpeted plans to replace the traditional routes to qualification — the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) — with the SQE as early as September 2020. The plan is that the new route will be split into two parts (SQE1 and SQE2) and will still require wannabe solicitors to complete a training contract, albeit on a more flexible basis than previously.

Purchase tickets for Legal Cheek’s Future of Legal Education and Training Conference on May 23.

21 Comments

loljk m8

Amazing. Truly an outstanding approach to strengthening the profession.

(5)(160)

Anonymous

By paying 27000 for a law degree plus 15000 for an LPC to be a paralegal instead of a trainee. To the total tune of 42000

They are people who did a degree in the 90’s free of charge who paid 10000 for a 10 month GDL and 15000 for an LPC = 25000. Less time and less cost of a three year degree.

Welcome change we need to balance!

(26)(0)

Big Dolla

Your comment is a bit incoherent, but I’m going to guess that you’re supporting the change on the grounds that there will be fewer applicants who waste money on education (particularly the LPC) only to never qualify.

Which is true; the new system will allow more candidates to qualify, as paralegal experience and such will count as qualifying experience.

The first issue is that the change only really shifts the bottleneck. The current bottleneck with training contracts is determined by demand for legal services. The new system doesn’t change that demand. It merely means that now there’ll be more unemployed solicitors at the post-qualification level.

The second issue is the very idea that just because these applicants spent money on a legal education, they somehow deserve to qualify. They don’t. Participation by itself deserves no merit.

It is this second issue which I truly find worrying. I don’t believe that we as a society should encourage this kind of thinking.

(12)(40)

Anonymous

Very nice comment Mr BigDolla. Doesn’t matter whether it’s incoherent or not. But I wrote it when I found out I failed a few modules on the LPC. It’s not been the best of days.

Plenty of students at undergraduate level I’ve spoken to are not aware of the LPC. Some unis (non- Russel) have the LPC integrated within like a degree in medicine or dentistry. Whilst others end up doing electives in third year only to find out that it is a core module in the LPC. It removes the overspending and excess debt that students leave with.

I do think it manages expectations. But it is still disappointing that firms like Reed Smith recruit for paralegals with an LPC when it’s meant for trainee solicitor to do. Others like Macfarlanes don’t ask for an LPC.

When firms impose an LPC requirement and the current state is that funding hardly covers it. The three year degre becomes quite meaningless.

(1)(0)

Big Dolla

What?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I sheet you not

(0)(0)

Big Dolla

No, your post is just incoherent. Again.

(1)(13)

Anonymous

“It merely means that now there’ll be more unemployed solicitors at the post-qualification level.”

Well it depends on what they do doesn’t it? If they’re looking to work on the big deals and earn £100k/year, then yeah it does.

However, something like 83% of small businesses in the UK didn’t seek legal help from a solicitor last year when they had a problem, they went to accountants, google etc.

That’s a huge market that’s available to tap into for lawyers who are willing to charge a smaller fixed fee rather than a large hourly fee.

(108)(0)

Joel

I’m very curious to know what the length of education will be for non law students?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Looks pretty similar. Only the name changes.

(0)(0)

Mr Negative

Likewise. Your thought on this?

(0)(0)

BPP Shareholder

££££££?

(7)(0)

Anonymous

I’m afraid not.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Actually I reckon it will be ££££££££ because I’m sure BPP will cook up some vague nonsense about how ‘increased admin costs’ and ‘economic environment’ means they will have to increase their extortionate course fees

(13)(0)

LPC 2018 applicant

So what the F*** am I supposed to do now ?!

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Carry on with your 2018 LPC – even on the SRA’s most optimistic timetable the SQE will not exist as an option until late 2020 (and is very likely to be later). Plus the LPC route to qualification will remain valid for anyone who has started a law degree / GDL before the SQE comes in until 2031 on the proposed transitional provisions. Employers won’t really trust the SQE until a few cohorts have been through it. Just be glad you are starting in 2018, and not a 2020 guinea pig…

(6)(0)

David Gale

Why is a short term memory test considered professionally relevant in the 21st century? So, someone who can recall slightly more information for six weeks around an exam is more ‘qualified’ than someone who retains slightly less information for six years? With such backward thinking, is it any wonder why so many law firms are completely devoid of information management strategies in the Information Age?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

whats the bloody point.? Legal aid has gone for crime and family work. Personal injury will cease to exist save for a handful of big players. What are these people actually going to do, admiralty?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I hate the super exam

(1)(0)

Rosemary Verlander-Smith

None of you have considered the Legal Executive qualification route. I have just guided a student through to qualifying as a solicitor for £14,287; maximising on exemptions and saving a lot of time and effort – and that figure includes the PSC, too. Even better…they are also automatically exempt from the training contract requirement and half of the PSC. She will be applying to the Roll of Solicitors later this year….do your research! 🙂

(0)(0)

Rosemary Verlander-Smith

P.S. That also requires you to do the CILEx exams first (£9k) but chosen carefully, you can choose the same subjects that are needed to qualify as a solicitor and maximise your costs, time and effort. Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak!

(0)(0)

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