No plans to delay SQE because of Covid-19, says regulator

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By Legal Cheek on

SRA responds to Durham Law School chief’s call for super-exam to be postponed in light of pandemic

The first assessments of the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) will take place “no earlier” than autumn 2021, the regulator has told Legal Cheek, following a call for it to delay its plans in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) also said at this stage it does “not expect the COVID-19 outbreak to affect this timeline” but continues to monitor the situation carefully.

The regulator was responding to an article by Durham University Law School chief Thom Brooks, and published on this website, in which he urged the SRA to postpone its plans for for at least six months in view of the virus outbreak. Its full statement reads:

“The first SQE assessments will be no earlier than Autumn 2021. We continue to work towards this and at this stage, we do not expect the COVID-19 outbreak to affect this timeline. We will of course continue to monitor the situation carefully.”

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The SRA is expected to seek final sign-off for the SQE from the Legal Services Board (LSB) this summer.

In late 2018, the regulator pushed back the SQE’s implementation date until September 2021, having previously proposed a launch date of September 2020. It said the additional time was in response to “strong” feedback from law firms and education providers.

“We want everyone to be ready to make the most of the SQE,” SRA chief exec Paul Philip said at the time. “We have listened to law firms and universities, who have told us that 2021 gives them the right amount of time to prepare.”

The SQE, dubbed the ‘super-exam’, will replace both the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC). It 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.

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