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Trainees should qualify on time as Professional Skills Course moves online, says regulator

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Law school giants ULaw, BPP and BARBRI Altior make provisions to deliver large number of modules remotely

Trainee solicitors due to qualify this autumn should be able to do so as normal, the regulator has said, as the Professional Skills Course (PSC) moves online amid the virus pandemic.

The PSC is the final stage of training rookies must complete to qualify as a solicitor. It is typically completed in six to eight modules over the course of the training contract.

Some parts of the PSC require face-to-face assessment; a challenging requirement to meet given the current COVID-19 set of circumstances. We questioned the regulator as to whether trainees with outstanding PSC modules will be able to qualify in time for September 2020 admission.

A spokesperson for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) told Legal Cheek:

“If they’ve completed the course — online or otherwise — they’ll be fine and should be able to be admitted.”

It’s up to training providers to decide how the PSC is delivered, with the SRA approving the administration of the assessments.

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Law school giants BPP and The University of Law (ULaw) confirmed to Legal Cheek they have moved a large number of their PSC teaching and assessment provision online.

Jim Moser, director of professional development at ULaw, said: “ULaw is mindful of the trainees need to qualify and will be doing everything we can to support them.”

The law school confirmed it will be delivering the PSC core modules, client care and professional standards as well as advocacy and communication skills online.

“We are also scheduling PSC elective modules to run in this way as well as adding additional courses,” Moser continued, adding:

“We are also in close contact with the SRA and they have agreed to consider, where required, applications for online or remote invigilation of assessments for the PSC and other variations to course delivery. As a result, we have obtained SRA authorisation to deliver the PSC advocacy and communication skills programme in an imaginative and effective online version. We are still in communication with the SRA and anticipate being able to add financial and business skills to the schedule shortly.”

Meanwhile, BARBRI Altior has moved its PSC modules online via its ‘Live Online’ platform. Like ULaw, it recently received the go-ahead from the regulator to move its advocacy and communication skills course online.

Speaking of the launch, Jody Tranter, head of BARBRI Altior said: “We’re thrilled to be able to announce the launch of our virtual advocacy and communication course this week. We’ve been working closely with the SRA over the last few weeks to make this a reality, and we welcome the fact that it has been receptive to us trialling this, supporting our ability to provide training for trainees to complete their training contracts in their own desired time. It’s something that we’ve seen a demand for previously, and I believe that with a greater number of firms and individuals looking to focus on development remotely, this virtual offering has become a necessity.”

Tranter added that her team are currently working with the SRA to determine a way to deliver the financial and business skills examination online.

BPP confirmed it has also been in discussions with the regulator to move its PSC programme online. A spokesperson said: “BPP has worked with the SRA to enable us to deliver the PSC online and we have a large number of programmes scheduled over the next few months.”

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