Junior Lawyers Division offers up alternatives including online exams and coursework
Junior solicitors have chimed in on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) exam controversy, demanding that the regulator allow students to sit exams remotely during the coronavirus crisis.
The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) also argues that LPC students could be passed on coursework or predicted grade — anything but the current solution of pushing back finals indefinitely.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is refusing to lighten up on the requirement that the LPC include supervised exams — impossible in a time of COVID-19. Exams have already been cancelled because of the pandemic.
In a letter to the SRA, the Junior Lawyers Division say that as there is “no known timescale for this virus”, simply pushing exams down the road is “unworkable”.
Echoing the arguments of an LPC student petition, the group’s chair Charlotte Parkinson says that delay would have “serious implications” for trainees who start training contracts in September. Instead of polishing off exams before in-office training starts, trainees could have to juggle both — with no guarantee of student leave.
The letter (embedded in full below), addressed to SRA chief Paul Philip, also raises concerns that some firms “may even postpone the training contract until the student has taken the SRA exams”.
The Junior Lawyers Division wants the regulator to examine alternatives to exam postponement. These include online exams, coursework and video assessments. Or, the SRA could:
“Consider whether it would be safe to use the LPC student’s current grade as their predicted grade and whether their current grade would be a fair representation of what the student could reasonably expect to be awarded in usual circumstances. This would need further consideration and detailed guidance as to when this option would be considered satisfactory.”
The SRA is standing firm, emphasising that “it’s important that [exam] supervision is in place to ensure integrity and security”.
In a coronavirus update released on 23 March, the regulator said that it didn’t have a ready answer to the exam problem:
“… we recognise the current exceptional circumstances could have significant implications. For instance, the need for supervised assessment for the Legal Practice Course (LPC), or challenges around completing the Professional Skills Course (PSC) in time for September admission.
We are mindful of this, listening to feedback, talking to training providers and law firms, and exploring what options we may have in these areas. We will provide updates on our approach in this area on these pages as soon as possible.”
The junior lawyers’ letter also highlights concerns about solicitor apprentices and the impact of home working on “vulnerable” current trainees.