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SRA picks Kaplan to deliver new solicitor super-exam

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Eight-year deal

The regulator’s plans to overhaul legal education moved a step closer to reality today, after it selected education giant Kaplan to develop and deliver the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said it will now work closely with Kaplan and other stakeholders from across the legal education sector to develop and test the SQE — otherwise known as the super-exam. Kaplan has been appointed for a period of eight years from the introduction of assessment, which could be as early as September 2020.

Commenting on the appointment, SRA chief executive Paul Philip said:

“We are delighted to appoint Kaplan after a robust, competitive and open process. Its bid succeeded against some very strong competition. We are now another step closer to delivering a rigorous assessment that helps build trust that all qualifying solicitors are meeting the same high standards, regardless of their route into the profession.”

Today’s announcement means that Kaplan — which closed down its UK law school operations in 2016 — will not be one a handful of providers to offer the new SQE prep-course. This will be left to established legal education players including The University of Law (ULaw) and BPP University Law School, alongside a number of newcomers to the UK solicitor-training market. One of the new entrants to the UK solicitor-training market is US state bar exam preparation provider BARBRI. Managing director, Sarah Hutchinson, told Legal Cheek:

“For the first time in over 25 years, the legal profession can be assured that there is a common standard for entry into the profession. However, it is urgent that Kaplan and the SRA publish the detailed exam specification. BARBRI has trained over 1.3 million law graduates to prepare for the US state bar exams and we’ll utilise our exam preparation expertise and innovative learning technology to launch an SQE preparation course in 2020. The BARBRI SQE prep course will give confidence to aspiring solicitors and their employers that they can succeed in the new national exams.”

Welcoming the decision, ULaw’s Pro Vice Chancellor (External) Peter Crisp told Legal Cheek:

“It is our hope that this appointment will now lead to the publication of a clear timetable for the assessment implementation, which will provide students, the profession, and ultimately the public with certainty and confidence in the SQE.”

Andrew Chadwick, dean of BPP University Law School, told us that “after several years of uncertainty, the profession finally has some clarity, at least as to the identity of the assessment organisation. It is a start.” He continued:

“However, let us be realistic — the SQE establishes a common qualifications floor for the profession but it does not begin to construct an adequate ceiling. Our clients have made it abundantly clear that they require trainees to be equipped with specialist legal knowledge, competencies and skills far in advance of the minimum specified by the SQE. The appointment of Kaplan as assessor, welcome though it is, doesn’t change that reality.”

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Kaplan’s tender success is a significant step forward for the regulator as it moves towards realising its super-exam dream.

Last year, the SRA unveiled plans to replace the traditional routes to qualification — i.e. the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) — with the SQE. The new route will be divided 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.

In March, the Legal Service Board, an independent body responsible for overseeing the regulation of lawyers across England and Wales, provisionally approved the SRA’s super-exam framework. It did, however, keep the regulator sweating: extending the time it had to reach a decision not once, but twice.

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26 Comments

Anonymous

No one else wanted it and Kaplan were the obvious front runners where they are the exam supplier for the QLTS

Anonymous

Kaplan is the cleverest of them all – ditching the unprofitable LPC, trimming the fat, getting lean and hungry for the big prize.

Goodbye ULaw, good luck BPP.

Anonymous

Shame they don’t clean the toilets properly at Kaplan

Anonymous

So long as everyone stops pretending these professional exams are anything other than a mind-numbing nonsense.

The more they are trimmed down and the more people learn on the job the better.

Anonymous

What you learn on the job depends on the team and quality of people you work for.

The purpose of a professional exam and qualification is to ensure that there is a gold standard that you can say has been lived up to when you obtain that qualification.

It is the only way and Kaplan are respectable. I hope firms will get with the times and buy in to this.

Anonymous

Gold standard, have you done the LPC? I’d have to guess not

What a piece of piss – LPC has nothing on the BPTC, and the idea it is some form of standard to sort the wheat from the chaff is laughable.

NotAKaplanFan

You’re not getting the poster above’s point, which I agree with. A training contract is only as good as the partners and associates willing to train you – a trainee in a conveyancing factory in Bradford is not going to get the same training as an MC newbie, but a couple of years down the line they could both be on the same transaction. If you can drag everyone up to a minimum standard, it makes things easier for everyone.

Anonymous

And that will remain the case super exam or no super exam.

Still, the young lawyer will learn most when they actually start working.

Still, there will be great disparity in the quality of training (not that photocopying banking documents at 3am is particularly great training).

Anonymous

The SRA realised the SQE is doomed to fail so might as well palm it off on Kaplan, whose law school couldn’t even survive a massively oversubscribed postgraduate market

Anonymous

They also did the BMAT in years past.

The SRA board that decided to put in this stupid scheme were previously involved in the BMAT, UKCAT, and Kaplan providing prep for those exams.

Hardly surprising.

Anonymous

$$$$

I am rich now

Haha get in! I bought some shares in Kaplan before the news hit. Time to sell up and buy myself a second lambergini.

I’ll see you suckers waiting at the bus stop when I drive by, you student lowlifes.

Anonymous

BREAKING NEWS!!!!!

Oh

Er

Erm.

It’s hardly nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury guys

Grey Worm

Education is such a useless industry

Anonymous

What a ridiculous thing to say. You owe a lot to education.

Anonymous

In 1992, the abolition of The Law Society’s Final Examination saw the opening of the floodgates to mediocrity in the profession. Until then only intelligent people could qualify. Pass rate was usually 70-75%. Then came the joke LPC. 97% pass rate the first year of it’s existence opened the floodgates.
A girl I shared a house with at The College of Law in 1992 failed every exam. Not a problem, she got a distinction the following year in the good old LPC.
Now the profession is littered with numbskulls.

Anonymous

Maybe the extra year of study was the reason she did so well second time round?

Anonymous

You are too old

Real solicitor

Having the LPC means nothing though. I’ve never gotten a job because of my performance on the LPC, nor have I been asked about my grade. No one cares. So yes many people are passing the exams but the profession has adjusted so you are now rated on other things. My career has been boosted because I trained in a City firm in private practice. However my firm was not Slaughter and May, so doors have been closed to me also. There are people with lower academic performance on their CV than me, but having trained at Magic Circle firms, the market has greater confidence in their skill set. The focus is on other things, not how you did in Business Law and Practice or SRA Code of Conduct. So complaining that people pass the LPC means nothing to the qualified solicitor market.

Dr Frankenstein

Law firm’s apprenticeship route is a far attractive option.

Anonymous

Well… what can I say? Let’s see how this goes. All the best Kaplan!

Errrrr

Having looked into SRA’s proposal as to how the SQE stages 1 and 2 will look like and the content of assessments… It’s same LPC! Just wrapped up in a new shiny package with more affordable price tag….to fill up SRA’s pocket.

But hey, having met so many inadequate solicitors and unprofessional barristers it’s not the route to qualification that matters or type of exams you take to qualify. It’s the experience and ability to do the JOB.

No?

#peace

Anonymous

Having sat the QLTS with Kaplan, which included such “rigorous assessments” as sitting a multiple choice test in a dilapidated DVLA training center in Reading, I can only imagine how bad the ” very strong competition” must have been.

The QLTS is a joke, and if this super exam is anything like it, I worry for the profession.

Anonymous

“How will the SQE work?

Under the new system you’ll need to do just four things to qualify:

Hold a degree (in any subject) or equivalent qualification.
Pass stages 1 and 2 of the SQE: the first focuses on legal knowledge and the second on practical legal skills.

Complete 24 months of legal work experience (not necessarily with a single employer).
Meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

That’s it – no law degree, no GDL, no LPC, and no training contract! The SRA will appoint a single assessor and adjudicator for the SQE in 2018. However, the regulator has stated that it expects various providers (ie law schools and the current GDL/LPC providers) to offer preparatory courses for both stages of the SQE.

The SRA has provided a rough outline of the order in which it expects you to complete the requirements above: most individuals will take SQE1 after completing a degree and before the start of the work experience period and SQE2 at the end of it.”

Anonymous

Those who say the LPC is a joke need to think again or do the actual LPC. It’s an intense, dense and stressful course which makes you do over 14 exams in one year. You’re learning so much in so little time. A lot of people from Oxbridge failed some exams in my year, so please think before you speak.

Anonymous

Dude, where the hell is Legal Cheek’s editor? What kind of sentence is this exactly:

“Today’s announcement means that Kaplan — which closed down its UK law school operations in 2016 — will not be one a handful of providers to offer the new SQE prep-course.”

What exactly is “will not be one a handful”

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