Super-exam cost revealed before Christmas, says SRA

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As Kaplan’s SQE director defends multiple choice format

Aspiring solicitors will (hopefully) have a clearer idea of the costs involved in sitting the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) by the end of the year, according to the regulator.

Julie Brannan, the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) director of education and training, said that a decision would be taken on fees and an implementation date “by the end of 2018”. Brannan, who was speaking at an SRA roundtable on the super-exam yesterday, revealed plans to publish a range of fees to give a clearer indication of the parameters within which the SQE fees may be set.

Elsewhere during the roundtable, which was live-streamed on Twitter (embedded below), Brannan admitted that it was still unclear whether the SQE would come into force in 2020 or 2021. This, she said, would depend on how well-prepared law schools and other training providers were for the switchover.

Though substantive details on the SQE are still thin of the ground, the SRA has proposed splitting the exam into two parts. Part one will be a computer-based assessment, which is likely to include multiple choice questions, while part two will test a candidate’s practical legal skills such as advocacy and client interviewing.

The parts will be divided by a training contract-style period of on the job training, meaning a wannabe solicitor yet to secure training with a firm will be taking on less financial risk than they are at present with the “LPC gamble”.

The 2019 LPC Most List

Returning to the roundtable, Eileen Fry, director of SQE at Kaplan, defended the assessment’s multiple-choice format. Dismissing suggestions that the new set-up would test memory as opposed to knowledge, Fry argued that a well-drafted multiple choice question involved the “application of fundamental principles”. Fry continued:

“Advantages [of multiple choice questions] are that you can assess application of fundamental legal principles in realistic situations… You can assess a large number of topics, reducing the likelihood that candidates will pass or fail by luck… [They are] less open to allegations of subjectivity, bias and discrimination.”

The update comes on the back of the announcement by the SRA that it had selected education giant Kaplan to develop and deliver the SQE. Kaplan has been appointed for a period of eight years from the introduction of assessment.

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Afraid for the future

I enjoy how the SRA have not taken into account any complaints of:

“we do not want people who are not trained up to the standard we need”; and
“we do not want 1/3 of a cohort… or in other words staff, absent for a substantial period of time at certain points of the year”.

Imagine paying someone – who is effectively going to be at a “work experience” standard- 60k as a “trainee” at the current highest paying firms.

S(Suspicious) Q(Questionable) E(Egregious).



Perhaps it is slightly cynical, but would a multiple choice exam be much cheaper for Kaplan to create and assess?



The SQE will allow an unlimited number of people to qualify as solicitors without completing a formal training contract.

At the moment the number of newly qualified roles available are to an extent proportional to the number of training contracts. The result is that the number of newly qualified roles available is similar to the number of people who qualify each year.

So my reservation with the SQE is that I cannot see where all of the people who qualify via the SQE route will be able to get jobs as qualified solicitors.

The large law firms have already said that they have no intention of getting rid of the established training contract process so it is seems unlikely that they will hire anyone at NQ level who has not either completed a TC with their firm or a TC at a firm which sits in a similar position in the market.

I don’t know a huge amount about it so I am open to being corrected but my concern is that a lot of people will invest a lot of time and money into qualifying via the SQE route and there simply won’t be enough jobs available for them.



Quite right. The market will decide how many NQs are needed.

Having more people with a qualification won’t increase the number of jobs available (but in some segments of the market it may drive down salaries).



Precisely. Firms will hire the same people and they will go through substantially the same process as they always have. I suspect the only difference will be the huge numbers of unemployed “Solicitors” as opposed to unemployed LPC graduates.

As for price, the LPC used to be much cheaper than it currently is. These things have a habit of increasing in price over time, particularly when delivered by private universities held by PEs. If the SRA cap the cost, they will simply introduce SQE LLMs and similar. I expect to see history repeat itself.



SQE is a farce and a needless boon for stakeholders and investors in the private UK education sector.



“This, she said, would depend on how well-prepared law schools and other training providers were for the switchover.”

Total buck-passing – the point of all of this seemed to cut out the law schools and their compulsory cartel on the basis that someone (poorly advised, but possible) could enter themselves for the exam without having done a course. If that vision holds, stuff the law schools. If that vision doesn’t now hold, how different is this to now – compulsory courses but lacking the nerve to say they are?



This was never funny and gets worse by the day



I think SQE is a more sensible method to become a soliciter you have all your life to get experience . Two years training contract is not enough time to become a good solicitor


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