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Super-exam won’t save students money, claim junior lawyers

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Junior Lawyers Division predicts that newly-approved SQE won’t lower qualification costs

The newly signed off super-exam for qualifying as a solicitor won’t be any cheaper than the current system, the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) claims.

The group, which represents trainee and early-career solicitors, reckons that the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) “will not prove to be any cheaper” than the existing Legal Practice Course (LPC).

The SQE represents the biggest shake-up in solicitor training since 1993, with all assessments to become centralised and more flexible in how students can prepare for them.

Fittingly for what has been dubbed the super-exam, it needed the approval of a super-regulator. The Legal Services Board, which oversees the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), gave its final blessing to the SQE earlier this week.

The SRA has long hoped that the SQE would slash costs for students. Courses can cost up to £17,300 under the current set-up, as Legal Cheek’s LPC Most List shows.

Legal education provider BARBRI has launched an SQE course for just under £10,000, of which about £4,000 covers exam fees. The University of Law and BPP University Law School are expected to follow with their own SQE pricing updates in the coming months.

The 2021 Legal Cheek LPC Most List

But the JLD is pessimistic on the savings front. In a statement responding to the SQE getting approved, the group said it “expects that the SQE, together with the preparation courses currently being developed by education providers, will not prove to be any cheaper than the current system”. Students are “likely to have the same amount of expenditure/debt”.

The JLD also warned that student loans may not be available for SQE candidates, making it harder for less well-off students to qualify.

Unveiling the exam fees over the summer, SRA chief executive Paul Philip said that “many people are put off by the high up-front costs of the Legal Practice Course” and that the SQE meant “more affordable ways to qualify”.

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