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Solicitor super-exam receives final approval

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LSB signs off on biggest shake-up to legal education and training in a quarter-century

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has finally been given the go-ahead to introduce the new solicitor super-exam.

In an update on the The Legal Services Board’s (LSB) website, the super-watchdog said it had today approved the SRA’s application to make “significant changes” to how people qualify as solicitors in England and Wales. This includes the roll-out of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) from 1 September 2021.

The LSB said it conducted a thorough assessment of the application and concluded that if the SRA realises its ambitions for the SQE, “it should have a positive impact” on the profession.

The LSB added that it had received assurances from the SRA on some areas of initial concern, including additional safeguards around qualifying work experience (QWE) to help to prevent the poor treatment of trainees — a concern previously expressed by the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD).

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Commenting on the approval, chair of the SRA, Anna Bradley, said:

“We welcome the LSB’s decision. The SQE will provide assurance that all aspiring solicitors meet consistent, high standards at point of entry to the profession. It will also open up new and diverse routes to qualification.”

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 the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Today’s news means the first sittings for SQE1 will take place in November 2021 with the first SQE2 sittings in April 2022.

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21 Comments

Leonidas

I’m so happy to see this news, academics had concerns, but at the end of the day no more need for a LLB, GDL or LPC!

I do think academics who advocate for essay writing in coursework will finally understand that practical skills trump writing long academic essays.

Academics let’s put their names to the test now shall we.

Spartans what is your profession?

‘AHOO! AHOO!’ Screams the students

(11)(27)

Gary

Love your chocolates mate.

(3)(4)

Dido

Love your basic name, mate.

(4)(0)

Dido

Oh, as if I have not heard that, usually from the sort of people who did not study Latin at school. So, so, basic a riposte, and yet the best you could do. Bless you. And, darling, your name is not fabulous in any way. It is the sort of name that screams “Boomer from a working class estate”. If I met a “Gary” he most likely be would repairing something in the house.

(0)(0)

Leveller

Great news. No more pandering to city firms. No more pointless hoop jumping for training contracts. This will truly widen access in the long run. The elite city firms are no longer gatekeepers to the profession.

(8)(29)

SC

Elite city firms don’t gatekeep at all…? The reason it is hard to become a solicitor is because:

a) there are only a few thousand training contracts on offer every year;
b) there are a lot of applicants because it’s an attractive profession; and
c) it requires going through various stages of academia and training.

This solution arguably makes it easier to qualify negating c) but the fact is that a) and b) remain. It won’t suddenly be easy to join a top practice, and firms will continue to recruit the best fits for their businesses. There’s a separate conversation to be had about inequality of opportunity but that is probably a wider societal question you can’t expect firms to solve on their own.

(20)(3)

Legallycurios

There will be no change at the lucrative end of the profession so the same type of people currently recruited will continue be recruited in those firms. However, those that gain qualification via the SQE and have poor quality experience will end up in poorly paid jobs some at minimum wage.

(6)(1)

Anon

Except the problem has never been completing the academic stage. Basically anyone who can get into a remotely decent university can *pass* UG/GDL/LPC provided they have (a) the brains or (b) the cash. But this does nothing to enable those people to actually train and qualify, a process still controlled by firms and other institutions. You can’t just pass the SQE and then set up your own firm. The profession are still gatekeepers (and, as an aside, we’re all the better for that).

(8)(2)

Fk Privilege

“You can’t just pass the SQE and then set up your own firm” Yes you can. The SRA does not prohibit qualified solicitors from doing so. In theory a person who has completed the SQE, and has the necessary qualifying work experience can qualify and set up their own firm.

There’s going to be more competition for elitist firms staffed by talentless Tarquin’s who obtained a TC due to being an old boy .Even if the elitist firms only recruit RG and oxbridge grads, I expect more people will simply qualify and subsequently freelance, work with local or regional firms that are less snobby , or simply set up their own firms. Ultimately, expect a lot more competition to make legal services more affordable.

Firms are no longer the gate keeper because budding lawyers can get qualifying work experience from a wide range of service providers that deliver legal services, for example the citizens advice bureau, advocacy charities, FRU, and Mckenzie friend services. Simply put, a TC is no longer needed to qualify. Its the end of the elitist privilege that the old model of qualification entrenched. An oxbridge degree or Russel Group degree is no longer needed to become a lawyer. In terms of access to qualification the SQE has shattered the corrupt shackles of privilege and racism and the ability of these factors to prevent people from becoming solicitors. A truly commendable decision has been taken by the LSB.

(4)(16)

Legallycurios

Agreed but the ones that benefit from the SQE and become lawyers where they might not have under the current system are likely to end up in poorly paid lawyer jobs.

Such students may be better off in admin jobs with better pay and perks.

(1)(0)

Legallycurios

The elites will end up in the good legal jobs. That will continue regardless of the SQE.

The SQE may drive salaries lower at the non elite lawyer end.

AngieD

Well it would be nice to think it opens up the profession. But I doubt it. The recent book ‘The class ceiling’ looks at how the elite professions operate in terms of both access and career progression. Read it, it’s excellent and confronts a lot of assumptions we make about our supposed meritocracy.

(0)(0)

MCT

We get it, you were rejected by Oxbridge and then didn’t get a TC.

(2)(0)

LPC > SQE

It’s incorrect to say that you can qualify and immediately start your own firm. You need to be ‘qualified to supervise’ which means having three years PQE under your belt.

Interestingly, the SRA did recently float changing this, but backed down when the profession said this was a barmy idea.

In short, when SQE arrives there will suddenly be a glut of newly qualified solicitors. However, the number of NQ roles isn’t going to change from current levels, and the same people that don’t get training contracts in the current system are going to fail to get NQ jobs in the new system. The bottleneck will simply move along the employment pathway.

Yes it might be cheaper (at first) to qualify via SQE but employers will look at the MCQ format and will value it less as a qualification than the LPC. Give it five years of progressively decreasing consumer confidence and the SRA will backtrack.

(1)(0)

AnonQ

Is the first stage easy enough now for those that struggle with questions using long sentences?

(11)(1)

Jane

I wrote the QLTS on which the new exam format is based. There is a lot of scope for implicit bias in Stage II. If you check the QLTS website you will understand how opaque the exam is. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, I feel that people of colour will be let down as these examinations begin. You have no recourse but to pay an extremely large sum of money to pass the exam.

(2)(5)

Anonymous

Oh do expand. Just give me sometime time to get the popcorn ready.

(2)(1)

Finalyear

Is the LPC still being tapered off over the next few years? As a final year LLB student, I don’t relish the idea of having to re-do questions on all the core modules again in SQE1.

(2)(0)

Reading's hard?

As a final year student, hopefully you have the reading ability to find out yourself?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Reading’s hard what? Surely someone on their high horse like 0851 would not descend into contractions?

(1)(0)

Working on a Sunday

The sad fact underlying all of this is that firms at the top of the market don’t care about what happens at the bottom, and rarely care about how the profession is regulated generally as long as it allows them to keep operating as they like. Firms are free to ask that their employees have whatever qualifications they wish, in addition to SRA minimum requirements, and if that includes an LLB then the SRA won’t be able to do anything about it. Maybe we will move towards a continental approach where everyone is expected to have a Masters in Law.

I can’t wait until the mid and top tiers of the profession come together to agree some sort of guild exam, or similar arrangement, that they will expect their trainees/employees to obtain to differentiate them from the rest.

Two tiered profession here we come!

(1)(0)

Comments are closed.

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