Feedback from spring pilot advised it be ditched
A decision on whether or not to ditch the skills element of the first stage of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) won’t be made until next year, the regulator has confirmed.
The update follows the results of a pilot published earlier this summer, which recommended that the skills element of SQE1, under its current format, be scrapped.
The SQE1 pilot, run by Kaplan and sat by over 300 students, was split into two sub-sections: three multiple-choice papers of 120 questions each covering substantive and procedural law similar to that already found on a law degree, followed by a practical skills test consisting of two legal writing exercises and one legal research problem.
Responding to the result of the pilot at the time, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said it accepted that the results of the skills assessment (marks for each of the three pilot assessments ranged from 8% to 100%) did not reach the “high standard of accuracy required”. It added that it would take some time to discuss the findings and explore whether there are any other suitable ways to assess skills in SQE1.
It has now confirmed that it won’t make a final decision until 2020, after evaluating the pilot of SQE2. The second pilot, which is taking place from 10 to 15 December, will assess aspiring lawyers’ practical legal skills including research, writing, drafting, client interviewing, advocacy and case analysis.
Meanwhile, the SRA also confirmed that the SQE1’s “functioning legal knowledge assessment specification” (essentially what students will need to know in terms of black letter law) has been finalised.
Having consulted with more than 500 stakeholders, including training providers, law firms and students, the regulator said it has made a number of changes to the specification to “make it clearer what will be assessed where”.
Examples include the criminal offences candidates can expect to be tested on, and that equity and trusts includes the creation of inter vivos trusts, constructive trusts and the fiduciary relationship and its obligations.
Julie Brannan, SRA director, education and training, said:
“We had really useful feedback from stakeholders on the Assessment Specification, and have made a number of changes, in particular to make the specification clearer and more precise. The final specification also reflects changes to the assessment we made as a result of the SQE1 pilot.”
She continued: “By publishing the specification, training providers, the profession and other interested parties can see exactly what our expectations are and prepare accordingly.”
The SQE is scheduled to replace both the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) from autumn 2021.