Law schools welcome first SQE students as SRA ‘looks closely’ at online exam options in light of COVID

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By Thomas Connelly on

Regulator remains hopeful assessment will go ahead in November as planned

Law schools have begun welcoming their first groups of students who will go on to qualify via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) pathway, as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) revealed it’s “looking closely” at the options for delivering the new centralised assessments online in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the first super-exams scheduled to take place in early November, a number of legal education providers have officially begun their respective prep courses online.

The University of Law (ULaw) welcomed its first cohort of students on to its SQE Law Essentials Course, a part-time programme for non-law graduates to help them prepare for its SQE1 prep course. Similar to the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the 16-week online offering covers key topics including contract, tort, crime, land, trusts, and constitutional and administrative law. Its SQE1 prep course is anticipated to start in July/August 2021.

Elsewhere, BARBRI launched its SQE1 prep course this week, with aspiring lawyers attending their first virtual lectures. It confirmed it has 280 students enrolled so far, around half of which hold an undergraduate law degree.

Secure your place: The SQE Sessions

The other major market player, BPP University Law School, secured the contract to provide SQE prep courses to future trainees at a group of influential City law firms known as the ‘consortium’. It also launched an SQE-slanted Law Conversion Course (PGDL) in September of last year.

Other legal education players gearing up to welcome SQEers include Nottingham Law School, the College of Legal Practice, City University Law School, QLTS School and the Law Training Centre.

News of the first SQE students comes as the SRA’s director of education and training, Julie Brannan, revealed during an online webinar that the regulator is “looking closely” at online assessment options in response to lockdown restraints, but that it remained “hopeful” they would go ahead in November as planned.

Brannan — who will speaking at The SQE Sessions, a virtual event to mark the start of the super-exam’s launch year — said:

“Even if some restrictions remain in force in late 2021 and 2022, we have demonstrated through the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme that we can successfully deliver examinations very similar to SQE, effectively and safely. Social distancing and other protective measures were put in place to make sure that the QLTS examinations which ran in the second half of 2020 were safe for candidates.”

The SQE, which will replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC), received the green light from the Legal Services Board in the autumn.

Legal Cheek is hosting an afternoon of virtual seminars to mark the start of the SQE launch year. The SQE Sessions takes place next Thursday (28 January), and tickets are available to purchase now.

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