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Super-exam could damage ‘credibility’ of solicitor qualification, junior lawyers warn

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JLD urges super-regulator to think carefully before giving new exam final sign-off

Junior lawyers have called on the super-regulator to think carefully before giving final sign-off to the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) — warning the proposals could wreck the reputation of the solicitor qualification.

In a letter to Dr Helen Phillips, chair of the Legal Services Board (LSB), the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) said it is concerned with the structure of the super-exam and the impact it may have on the future of the profession.

The group, which represents approximately 70,000 law students, trainees and solicitors with up to five years’ post-qualification experience (PQE), stressed it remains firmly of the view that the SQE, in its current form, “poses significant risks to the standing and credibility (both domestically and internationally) of the solicitor qualification”.

The SQE will be split into two parts: SQE1 focusing on black letter law and taking the form of a computer-based, multiple-choice assessment, while SQE2 will test prospective solicitors’ practical legal skills such as advocacy and interviewing. It will replace both the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) when it comes into force in September 2021.

Ahead of the exam going before the LSB for final approval next year, the JLD said it would like to see the SRA undertake a further, meaningful consultation with stakeholders and groups affected by the proposed changes, including the Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division and the Lawyers with Disabilities Division.

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This, however, isn’t the first time the JLD has expressed concerns over the proposed changes to qualification.

Earlier this year, it warned that wannabe solicitors risk being exploited if they’re not paid a minimum salary during the work experience element of the SQE.

With this in mind, it called on the SRA to reinstate a mandatory minimum salary for trainee solicitors and consider how to build in a mandatory minimum salary for future solicitors undertaking work experience as part of the SQE.

Responding to the letter, the SRA’s director of education and training, Julie Brannan, said that law firm employees are now all protected by national wage requirements and that it would “not be appropriate” for the regulator to impose further salary requirements covering “wider categories of employment”.

As things stand, the Law Society recommends (i.e. firms can choose to ignore it) trainees be paid £22,121 in London and £19,619 elsewhere.

26 Comments

Anonymous

Yes, because the LPC was a rigorous training process that turned the country’s best and brightest into the best lawyers, thanks to flawless teaching at the most prestigious and robust institutions in the country. It’s great value for money, too, and all my friends love to show off their LPC certificates, making my BCL friends jealous.

Could someone please knock down their ivory tower? The LPC and BPTC are rubbish.

(21)(17)

My ivory tower appears to be falling?

At least the LPC requires you to write in full sentences.

(41)(1)

Mus

Sentences are a means of class and race oppression.

(11)(2)

My ivory tower appears to be falling?

Yes. For people who do not deserve to be practicing in England and Wales, that is.

(1)(0)

Good try

*practising

Anonymous

I know people who have TCs who often forget to write in complete sentences.

(0)(0)

John Smith

The SQE is worse than the LPC because it allows:

Starting a TC without having any legal studies.
Qualifying without any experience.
Examination purely through multiple choice.

(33)(4)

Anonymous

But not what the moan is about that is reported. The key is in the request to consult with “the Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division and the Lawyers with Disabilities Division”. Presumably the exam, despite all the dumbing down, does not seem to give enough bonus points for those who raise diversity percentages for virtue signalling press releases by the powers that be but who are not objectively good enough to pass otherwise.

(13)(4)

angry student

whether they like it or not, im not sitting this crap. I would rather gdl and lpc than this

(14)(2)

Anonymous

I’m sure that’ll change their mind.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Christ, look at who they want to consult with. Diversity crap again.

(24)(5)

Anon

Is the exam still too hard for those with poor English?

(14)(1)

Peter

please explain your comment: “is the exam still too hard for those with poor English?” as it appears to be in direct response to “the Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division and the Lawyers with Disabilities Division”.

(0)(0)

Anon

The fact remains that the LPC is largely a pointless qualification teaching practical skills much better learnt on the job, but transferring the cost, burden and risk of that upskilling onto the student so the firm doesn’t have to do it. I don’t see how making tha “LPC portion” of the SQE even easier addresses that…

Just require a law degree/other degree and GDL to apply for TCs, and scrap the rest.

(6)(2)

BIGGUS DICKUS

I love how they managed to miss the most obvious criticism (falling standards) and yet shoehorned diversity & inclusion into this…

(16)(0)

Anon

Standards are indeed falling, since you managed to miss that the article states that their concern with the new system was that it “poses significant risks to the standing and credibility (both domestically and internationally) of the solicitor qualification”.

(1)(2)

BIGGUS DICKUS

Mind spelling out where the article explicitly talks about standards (not ‘standing’ you mug, standards), and where it develops the (by now well-known) critique of the multiple choice format and the limited depth of material that is examined?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

They like that it is easier, to boost the diversity scores. They dislike that it has not been made easy enough.

(4)(0)

QMUL Law Student

Anyone got the current London NQ rate over at Tully Rinckey? Top firm I would be interested in joining.

(1)(2)

Anon

I think the credibility argument is overstated.

New York/LA/Toronto/Paris/Sydney lawyers will remain impressed by an associate solicitor in the London offices of a MC or elite American firm doing some complex capital markets deal or restructuring deal. At the same time they will remain completely unimpressed by a social housing conveyancing solicitor in the midlands. Just like a London associate solicitor couldn’t give a second’s notice to an ambulance-chasing PI attorney in Wisconsin.

The bottleneck is just being moved up the chain to NQ level.

(3)(1)

:)

I don’t disagree. I think the key difference is that MC and elite firms have the resources to pick up shortcomings in training, through their orientation programs. Whereas those that choose to go into legal aid, high street, and small-medium sized firms are unlikely to receive such support. At the end of the day you can’t become a solicitor by passing a multiple choice test.

(2)(0)

So

The basic solicitor qualification has no real “credibility” anyway. Vocational qualifications are minima after all. It is what one does after that matters.

(6)(0)

Barbara

Who is this Eric Ciaramella I keep seeing people talk about online?

(0)(2)

Barbara

Who is this Eric Ciara_mella I keep seeing everyone talking about online?

(0)(0)

Anon

Having slogged it on the GDL & done pretty well, & now studying the LPC, I don’t think an MCQ test on the black letter law especially for non-law graduates is or should really cut it. To be blunt, it seems ill-advised as MCQs don’t foster much analysis/application which are surely essential for future lawyers… It needs rethinking in my view

(0)(0)

Wake up

Sorry to burst your bubble but SQE will be a combination of MCQs, written assignments, and interviewing & advocacy examinations. How’s this different from what LPC is doing right now? Apart from making the route into profession more affordable?

Speaking from personal experience. I also sat SQE pilot 1 and will be sitting 2nd pilot in December.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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