Reed Smith signs SQE training deal with BARBRI and College of Legal Practice

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By Aishah Hussain on

Replaces LPC route from 2022

Reed Smith has partnered with two new super-exam training providers to prepare its future joiners to qualify as solicitors under the new regime.

The City law firm today announced it is joining forces with BARBRI and the College of Legal Practice (CoLP) to deliver a new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) training path in 2022. It will replace the exclusive deal it holds with BPP University Law School to deliver the Legal Practice Course and Graduate Diploma in Law — both of which will be scrapped once the new two-part assessment takes effect from autumn next year.

Both BARBRI and CoLP have recently gone public with details of their new SQE offerings. BARBRI will train up Reed Smith rookies to sit the SQE exams, while CoLP will deliver practice-based learning to assist with their studies as well as offering its own SQE prep courses.

The UK’s biggest law firms are preparing to overhaul their training structures as the new route to solicitor qualification nears. Reed Smith is one of the first major City law firms to provide substantive details about its SQE plans.

Reed Smith trainees will study for the SQE as part of a masters programme that can be completed across a single academic year. They will receive £13,000, which includes a £6,000 maintenance grant, for the training year.

The new model comprises six steps, with the first two steps, a law refresher course and the SQE1 prep course, completed online. The remaining steps, a legal knowledge and skills course, the SQE2 prep course, a professional project, and the two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE), take place from Reed Smith’s or a client’s office.

During the legal knowledge and skills course, the third step, future trainees will be able to work part-time, for two days a week in two separate seats, with placements in the firm’s knowledge, innovation, business services or pro bono teams, or with one of the firm’s clients. They will be able to study during the remaining three days of the week.

The two years’ QWE will mirror the firm’s current training contract structure: four seats including one contentious seat. The remuneration is expected to be the same, with first year trainees earning £45,000, rising to £49,000 in their second year, and £90,000 upon qualification.

Students without a law degree will be required to complete a conversion course before embarking on the new route. This will be funded by the firm.

Reed Smith’s training principal, Brigid North, commented:

“The introduction of the new Professional SQE training path is a significant step forward for our future trainees and the firm. We are very pleased to be able to offer an innovative new route that will enable our trainees to earn as they learn, which ensures we can attract a wider pool of talent to the firm.”

Today’s news comes just a week after the Legal Services Board gave the green light for the new centralised assessment to go ahead.

Other City law firms are expected to follow with their own SQE updates in the coming months.

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