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SRA reveals SQE exam cost of £3,980 as it extends transitional arrangements in response to COVID-19

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Total fee doesn’t include prep course costs

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has today revealed the total cost of the new solicitor super-exam, and extended transitional arrangements in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) will cost £3,980, the regulator has said. The two-part national assessment is due to come into force from 1 September 2021 — subject to approval from the Legal Services Board (LSB).

It’s worth noting that the total fee is for the exam itself and does not include training costs, which will vary depending on a candidate’s choice of preparation course. These, as of yet, remain unknown.

SQE1 will cost £1,558 and tests candidates’ functioning legal knowledge, i.e. black letter law, in two exams consisting of 180 multiple-choice questions each.

SQE2 will cost £2,422 and focuses on examining practical legal skills and knowledge through 15 to 18 tasks (or “stations”). SQE2 stations will, for the most part, be written assessments, i.e. research, writing, drafting or case analysis exercises, with the exception of advocacy and client interviewing, which will be assessed orally.

Ethics and professional conduct will be examined across SQE1 and SQE2.

The idea is that students who fail SQE1 will not go on to study the more expensive second part.

The SRA has said the costs are in line with the £3,000-£4,500 figure it set out in its original 2018 fee estimates.

Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:

“Our priority is creating a single rigorous assessment that gives everyone confidence that aspiring solicitors meet high, consistent standards at the point of entry into the profession. We also need to make sure the SQE is value for money and we are today confirming competitive assessment fees well within the original estimates.”

He continued: “In the current system, many people are put off by the high up-front costs of the Legal Practice Course — up to almost £17,000 – with no guarantee of a training contract. The SQE should give people more training options and more affordable ways to qualify, including earn-as-you-learn routes such as apprenticeships.”

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The SRA has also extended transitional arrangements for students taking Qualifying Law Degrees (QLDs) and Common Professional Examination courses (CPEs) starting in autumn 2021, in light of COVID-19.

The update means that students who have accepted an offer for a QLD or CPE on or before 31 August 2021, and who go on to start their course on or before 31 December 2021, will now have a choice. They can qualify under the old system until 2032, or through the SQE, offering greater flexibility to training providers and students planning on starting a law degree — or law conversion — in 2021.

This comes after some universities told the SRA that they would welcome a longer period running these courses as they prepare their new SQE programmes, given the significant challenges managing the impacts of COVID-19.

Philip added: “It will be some time before the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are properly understood but we want to give some extra time to prepare for SQE for those who need it. Our changes to the transition arrangements provide more flexibility for both students and universities, as we introduce SQE in 2021.”

Last month the regulator revealed the final design of the SQE. It will be set and examined centrally, with Kaplan tasked with delivering the SQE.

The SRA will be submitting its application to the LSB shortly. If approved, the first SQE1 sitting will be in November 2021 and the first SQE2 sitting in April 2022.

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18 Comments

SQEptic

Prep course costs in London from ULAW and BPP are probably going to be the same as the LPC… because why not ?

Stupid Regulation Authority

How does one realistically believe that BPP, ULaw and other institutions that run the LPC will do anything other than have the same price tag as the LPC but, now, you get to make Kaplan 4K richer in the process? And that’s supposed to increase access to the legal profession?

Incredibly stupid reform. Hopefully, the one good thing that comes out of it is BPP and ULaw becoming irrelevant and going under.

L

The *one* benefit of the SQE is that BPP and ULAW are not allowed to monopolise the prep courses. It’s the one thing the SRA have insisted. Though, in actuality it will make no difference as most people will go to the big providers instead of small tutoring outfits.

Third Year Law Student

They don’t have a monopoly though? Lots of universities now offer LPC.

L

You’re correct, but in reality they do. All future solicitors pretty much all go to ULAW or BPP, whether being sent by firms or wanting to go because that’s where everyone else goes.

Anonymous

Most law firms will still send their trainees to BPP or ULaw for prep courses. The Consortium firms and Linklaters already have a deal with BPP for their ”bespoke” course, so not much will change there.

Pretty useless if you ask me.

CitetheCase

Lots of unis offer the GDL which is *not* the LPC.

ULaw Slave

As for the LPC in London, as far as I can tell, City is the only uni that offers the LPC at a cool 15K. Maybe different elsewhere in the country.

Seems odd to think BPP/ULaw would create an “affordable” SQE prep course for joe blow when firms will continue sending trainees their way for a similar price point.

If you have no TC, is a firm more likely to consider you if you’ve studied with their preferred provider vs just teaching yourself law at home? I don’t know but I’m guessing not. SRA really muffed this one up.

I can’t see BPP or ULaw going bust. They are businesses who happen to provide an educational service and thus adapt to the changing landscape. The plebs will fall in line if they know what’s good for them.

Realist

SQE is a worthless social engineering project which has at its heart the unevidenced assumption that if you create new, inferior, routes to qualification then (a) more solicitor jobs will be created (they won’t: market demand won’t change, if anything it will worsen as the qualification degrades); and (b) more diverse candidates will get through (they won’t: firms will rightly become more risk adverse, and prefer Oxbridge candidates or rich Singaporeans, etc. for ‘diversity’, to the even greater exclusion of candidates who previous could have demonstrated their ability through clear competition on a simple playing field). It is the new CILEx: created with the intention of widening diversity and qualification into the profession, but ultimately producing a qualification that is less credible than the ‘proper’ qualification route.

Law firms will become more powerful, because the SRA have eliminated the ‘safe assumptions’ about candidates which could previously have be inferred from the qualifying law degree (“QLD”)/graduate diploma of law (“GDL”), and legal practice course (“LPC”). Any muppet can now purport to jump through SQE1 hoops, then play at doing trivial, notionally legally-related work, and then tick boxes in SQE2. In February 2020, a 15-year-old scored almost 50% in the initial section of the SQE, despite doing no preparation and having no knowledge of the law (www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/childs-play-unprepared-15-year-old-scores-half-marks-in-super-exam/5103230.article). Both the SQE and SRA are a joke.

The solicitor qualification, per se, will be worthless. What will matter – and the *only* thing that will matter – will be the name of the law firm in which people started their careers, both (1) because it will be assumed that experience in Linklaters, A&O, Kirkland & Ellis etc. is *exponentially* more valuable than in ‘Ditcher, Quick & Hyde’ divorce lawyers; and (2) credentialism – the concept that people are judged by certain achievements as a ‘filter’ rather than for their actual value per se – will be even greater (i.e. at the moment, if you have a BCL you stand out, not because you need a BCL to practice, but it’s a useful filter for law firm HR. By eliminating the QLD, GDL and LPC, you will force employers to find substitutes. Oxbridge and US/Magic Circle law firm names on one’s CV will be ever more important).

It has long-since been inevitable that the best law firms will simply ignore the SQE, and replicate the existing GDL/LPC. For example, Linklaters, Freshfields, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright and Slaughter and May are working together to do just that: see https://www.legalcheek.com/2019/09/exclusive-city-law-firm-consortium-prepares-to-appoint-super-exam-prep-course-provider and https://www.legalcheek.com/2020/05/city-consortiums-non-law-trainees-will-need-to-complete-pre-super-exam-conversation-course. Henceforth, ‘proper’ solicitors in decent City jobs will be those who go down that, or similar, routes. The ‘second-class solicitor’ route will be exclusively for those who bought the SRA’s SQE snake oil. The latter risk being stuck in a second-class ‘jobs ghetto’.

Junior lawyers’ future will now be determined by where they train, because the SQE is not up to scratch and the only value will come from the training and credibility offered by the firms. Those who train at sub-par firms will be permanently blocked out from high-end City and commercial law.

What is so perversely tragic is that working class and BAME candidates who are less likely to have access to decent careers advice will be more likely to cluelessly believe the hype that ‘all solicitors are equal’, and that SQE1/2 will put them on the same playing field as US NQs earning £150k. The lack of realistic careers advice is one of main reasons for different levels of achievement now: non-academic middle class children are sensibly deterred from going into law, whereas similarly [un]qualified minority candidates are misled. Sorry kids, the SRA has lied to you, because (a) it was fooled itself by a charlatan who is now seeking to exploit the disaster he’s created himself by becoming a ‘consultant’; and (b) it lacks the courage to admit that it made a mistake. Well done entrenching privilege, and damaging social mobility further, SRA. What a mess.

The SRA’s lobotomised pursuit of the SQE is an immense discredit to it, and it suggests a regulator which is either too incompetent to realise its failure or too arrogant to admit it. Can we now – please – put a stake in the SQE? (And, ideally, the SRA itself.)

In an attempt to conclude on a positive note: the SRA rightly recognised that law school quality is highly variable, and that this should be addressed. There is a very simple alternative to the SQE, though: centrally-set and assessed LPC exams. This would preserve the best parts of the current system, while providing quality assurance. How about it, SRA?

Gertrude

That 15 year old failed the SQE1 exam. 50% is a fail.

Her mum is also the head of a university law school if I remember correctly. That does make me question that “random” 50%. I’m not suggesting her mum sat it for her BTW…well, let’s hope not!

Fast forward 5 years and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

SRA SQE Snake Oil™️

Brava. BRB bottling some of this up. Any LPC grad without a TC now has a lane to jump into. Why slave away as a paralegal when you can become a personal tutor for some chap who just decided to get into law? Feels like a great opp. Email SRASO@gmail.com if you’re keen.

BARBRI Doll

Ulaw and BPP will still pick up their pay packets from major law firms who will keep them as their preferred provider (because change is scary). Any student without a TC would be mad to study at either of these though when BARBRI will keep the whole cost, including exam costs, to 10k and they are the leading exam prep providers for exams of this nature i.e the US bar.

Disappointed lawyer

I am a qualified solicitor and an attorney. The New York Bar costs $700 for foreign attorney. I paid an unnecessary amount for the GLD and LPC. If the SRA are serious about equality and access to the profession they should make it accessible and affordable. This is another example of how little thought the SRA gives to the profession it regulates. I genuinely think there needs to be a massive rethink of how to give people from a variety of backgrounds access to become a lawyer.

Colin

The SQE is substantially based on the QLTS where prep courses cost £1,000-£2,000. The QLTS course providers are likely to control the training market. Candidates will not pay £10,000 to BPP or UoL.

SQE putting the S in shite

Please can the SRA stop using the excuse that this change will positively impact social mobility.

While the current government masters loan doesn’t fund the entire costs of the LPC for those without TCs, it appears counterintuitive to claim this move is better for social mobility. As removing the ability to apply for part governmental funding creates the same funding problem. Young people from low socio economic backgrounds will still have to cough up a lot of money to pay for their course fees, potentially even more under the SQE.

Those students will be at more of a disadvantage too. They will not recieve the same support as those who have connections through mummy and daddy and will also carry the burden of (presumably like I did despite being funded) having to work during the lpc to cover living costs.

If the SRA is keen on improving social mobility, they should regulate the LPC by setting course fees and exams and should offer a bursary and additional support package for students from low socio economic backgrounds. I.e, if your household income is >£25k you recieve X off your fees and you’re offered access to networking events and coaching on skills

Master of Litigation

Genuine question here: Does anyone know and/or have any information on how a FCILEX can cross qualify to become a Solicitor via the SQE? I know the current requirements, but was just interested to see what other people have heard.

Lord Byron FCILEx.

Ive spoken to the SRA and they seem adamant that you would need to do SQE 1+2 regardless of your previous experience or degree subject, which are now seen as entry requirements rather than exemptions. This means you’d have to resit exams in the core legal subjects before you can go to SQE2.

Absolute shocker. For anyone currently on the path to qualification I would urge you to complete the traditional route as quickly as possible. For FILEx practitioners, Cilex have an LPC in partnership with DeMontford which you can complete to cross qualify to solicitor with before the SQE becomes mandatory.

Frog

“We need to make our profession more accessible so that intelligent students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds aren’t excluded. So here’s a £4,000 MCQ exam.”

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