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Top law lecturers express urgent concerns over SQE as they call on regulator to delay roll-out

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Too much uncertainty for uni-hopefuls to make ‘educated decision’, says Committee of Heads of UK Law Schools

There is still too much uncertainty surrounding the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) for school-leavers to make an informed decision about their choice of undergraduate degree, a group of leading law lecturers have warned.

In a letter to Anna Bradley, chair of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Committee of Heads of UK Law Schools (CHULS) said hundreds of thousands of young students are starting to research their futures before UCAS applications reopen in September.

But the group claims it is currently impossible for students, specifically those seeking to become solicitors, to make an “educated decision” due to the current uncertainty about the introduction of the SQE — due to come into force in September 2021.

The CHULS, which represents law lecturers at unis across the UK, says under the current rules solicitors must have completed a law degree or postgraduate diploma in law, but if the SQE is given the go-ahead, the SRA will no longer require students to have undertaken a period of legal education at degree level.

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The letter says: “However, the SQE does not yet have regulatory approval, and the SRA do not intend to apply for regulatory approval until the summer of 2020. We do not know exactly when this will be, or when a decision will be made. As it stands major aspects of the examinations remain uncertain — including, for example, how and when skills will be assessed. The SRA do not plan to report back on their pilot of part of the examination until the summer — perhaps not until immediately before they apply for approval…”

It continues: “The problem is that no one knows for definite whether the SQE will be introduced, or what it will look like, until regulatory approval has been given. The plans could be rejected, they could be postponed, or the SRA could be forced to radically change them. No university is able at this stage to tell students how or if their university education will prepare them for the assessments, and none are able to fully answer questions for prospective students about their choices.”

The group goes on to urge the SRA to delay the introduction of the SQE, “to ensure that young people making these vital decisions have the information available to make their choice”.

The signatories to the letter are: Professor Adam Gearey, secretary general, Association of Legal Scholars; Professor Rosie Harding, chair, Socio-Legal Studies Association; Professor Rebecca Probert, president, Society of Legal Scholars; Caroline Strevens, chair, Association of Law Teachers; and Carly Stychin, chair, CHULS.

An SRA spokesperson said: “We have only just received the letter and will respond in due course.”

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).

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8 Comments

Second Seat Trainee

Any student considering taking the SQE route is raving mad.

It’s monotonous, but stick with the GDL and/or LPC route until this is all sorted out (if ever) because at the moment – it’s chaotic, and the amount of uncertainty around it, is unnerving.

(16)(1)

anonymantle

Until when will the LPC still be an available route?

(2)(0)

Second Seat Trainee

Anyone who commences a law degree, GDL or LPC before September 2021 can qualify through the old system. They will have until 2032 to complete the route and qualify as solicitors. However, they may choose to qualify through SQE if they prefer.

However, firms (mine in particular) have indicated that they won’t cater for the old route until 2032 – they are likely to require all candidates to take the SQE from 2022.

So you have two years essentially.

(5)(0)

Great to know

Good to know

(0)(0)

Jane

Yes that is true. I understand Linklaters is delaying another year so starting a year later than they might with the new exam which is very wise and allows non law and law graduates to be on the same systems.

(0)(0)

Anon

Lecturers concerned about the gravy train departing without them onboard anymore?

(6)(1)

FartContracts

A bunch of academics who have very little to do with the business/vocational side of law – despite their egos

(1)(0)

Jane

It is not acceptable that things are not clear so close to the 2021 new regime. My son starts the GDL in September and thankfully will be under the existing system. His twin (both twins have not read law) plans a gap year and his position is utterly different if he chooses law – he doesn’t know what his regime will be eg would he start the GDL like his twin but a year later in 2021, finish the BPP pGDL in April or May 2022, then could he take the SQE1 in June 2022 with Kaplan and start an LPC which trains you for SQE2? Presumably that means he (or really I) pay BPP £12k for the pGDL like his twin but I also pay Kaplan, say, £1500 for SQE1.

Can we say with certainty that if he takes the pGDL starting in 2021 he can definitely take the SQE1 exam with Kaplan in London in say May or June 2022? Or will he be messed around. If he passed the dGDL but fails SQE1 can he start the LPC that September but retake SQE1 and how many times can he retake it? Will there be monthly retakes he could sit? I am not saying he will fail as he gets very high marks at university and did at school but he will be a guinea pig in a multiple choice experiment exercise and it will be awful as presumably they have two sets of exams – GDL and then SQE1. It will be far worse than now.

I wish they would just postpone it by another year (or 5 years) – students planning a legal career really need about 5 or 6 years of notice of these things. I planned my legal career aged 14, read law (started early) graduated in law aged 20 etc etc all planned out years ahead.

I saw part of a sample SQE1 questions video and the first question they produced on property law had a major defect – which of the following could sue it said… big mistake – anyone can sue anyone. They left out the word “successfully” before sue. I hope someone is vetting the multiple choice questions very carefully. Not allowing essay questions is a major error and means students cannot explore ideas and set out their thinking never mind their ability with the English language, a core requirement for solicitors.

(2)(1)

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