City Consortium to provide SQE ‘top-up courses’ for future trainees

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Exclusive: Will cover legal tech and project management skills

A group of six influential law firms collectively known as the ‘City Consortium’ are to provide ‘top-up courses’ for future trainees to supplement the knowledge and skills examined on the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), Legal Cheek can reveal.

The group, which includes Freshfields, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright, Linklaters and Slaughter and May, will commission extra courses so that future joiners at these firms are skilled in topics such as legal tech and innovation, business and project management, and ready to start their training within a City practice. These so-called SQE ‘top-up courses’ will be delivered by BPP University Law School, the Consortium’s official training provider, and are in addition to those taken by trainees to prepare for the two centralised assessments.

Linklaters, which offers the highest number of training contracts of the lot, is designing a bespoke programme to prepare its future cohorts for City-specific practice, according to Patrick McCann, global head of learning at the firm. “Our bespoke programme will go beyond the knowledge and skills assessed in the SQE to prepare our future joiners for all aspects of their role,” he said. “Using real-world transactions it will include topics relevant to City law, but also incorporate an understanding of commercial and technological frameworks and develop our graduates’ business-critical skills, such as growth mindset and resilience.”

Legal Cheek understands that the Consortium’s approach will help to plug the skills gap left by the removal of Legal Practice Course (LPC) electives which the SQE phases out. Under the current regime, LPC electives, or modules, are usually prescribed by a law firm and tend to align with their core practice areas. City law firms, for instance, tend to opt for corporate/commercial electives with a transactional focus.

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So far only one other City law firm, Reed Smith, which isn’t a Consortium member, has provided substantive details about its SQE plans. Reed Smith will partner with the College of Legal Practice to deliver practice-based learning to assist their future recruits with their studies, alongside the exam prep they’ll receive courtesy of BARBRI.

Legal Cheek suspects other major City players will commission bespoke training courses from legal education providers. Last month, our exclusive research showed that almost three-quarters (70%) of graduate recruitment and learning and development professionals at City law firms think the SQE alone will not be enough and future trainees will require a more thorough course to fully prepare them for legal practice.

The City Consortium announced in 2019 that it had appointed BPP as its SQE prep course provider. It also said it intended, subject to any changes made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, that its rookies will first sit SQE1 in, or around, November 2022 — a year after the regulator’s anticipated roll-out date. The first intake of trainees that this would affect is those commencing their training contracts in spring 2023.

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Alan Partridge

SRA: No, no, no, it’s different. It’s called the SQE now.

Alan : They’ve rebadged it, you fool!


I Like Chocolate Eclairs From Marks & Spencer

Hardly, they’ve dumbed it down and made it close to worthless other than to be ticked off en route to learning the skills you used to learn on the LPC. It will be great for adding even more to the value of a high end TC where the firm will actively teach that which was taught on the LPC, and it will mean everyone else will be seen as even more second rate than before.



SQE was a pathetic sop to the social justice warriors. It will have the opposite of the intended effect.



It’ll make qualifying more expensive?



Do you want a decent job or a piece of paper saying you qualified? There is a heavy price to be paid for devaluation.


Old Guy

I think I said this previously on here. SQE will simply mean people who are now legal executives or paralegals will call themselves solicitors and will not be touched with a barge pole by any decent firm. The importance of having a City firm (or national firm) on your CV for any decent job in private practice or inhouse will be heightened. Such a joke.



Even the SJWs think it’s a terrible idea. Don’t get it wrong – the SQE was introduced by and for the benefit of the SRA only.



The SJWs want it to be a colouring course given their response to the data on the mock part 1.



A tip to the diverse candidates out there: the SQE isn’t make it any easier for you to bag a TC at a Consortium firm

If only the SRA had made that clearer…



Once the powers that be wanted the first stage watered down because long sentences in questions were seen to result in pass rates that did not suit the diversity agenda behind the whole process it was clear beyond doubt that no employer could take the qualification seriously.



HL and NRF are “influential” looooooooooool – can think of 20 more influential firms at least. Hint, CMS are included in that list potentially!


Actual solicitor

HL are at least. They’re a top ten firm by revenue and generally highly respected in the profession. Sorry they rejected you from an open day mate, just keep revising for those first year online exams.


John Smith Esq.

The only effect of the SQE will be to draw in huge numbers of hopeful but underachieving candidates who have no chance of getting a TC so that private equity backed “education providers” can make more cash. The TC market and never-ending treadmill of paralegal jobs is only going to get worse after the SQE’s introduction.


Unknown Random

If “top-up” courses are needed with the SQE then surely this should signal to the upper echelons that the status quo should continue; or that more thought needs to go into the SQE regarding the form it should take. It all seems rushed and ill prepared to be honest.



You’d think, wouldn’t you?

The only possible explanation for this madness is that the regulatory side know it will be entirely counterproductive but that it will produce so much worse diversity outcome data than before to allow them to impose positive discrimination regimes they would never get away with now.



Does anyone really think it is worth doing an extra course on legal tech?



Personally as somebody moving from a non-law background to converting, the SQE is a far more accessible way of achieving this. Whilst I don’t doubt the GDL/LPC route is the traditional way, so to speak, it was almost completely unattainable for someone like myself who was; A. financially not in the position to afford it and B. competing for TC’s against those who’d already had three years academic experience in the industry, particularly in the current climate over the past year.

I also feel people are coming to a hasty conclusion about the SQE before it’s even had enough time to be understood, by both the academics and the students. I still intend to apply for TC’s should the opportunity come up to fund the LPC or an LLM, but also for the practical experience of working in a firm. I intend to study the MA Law with SQE 1 preparation from October this year.


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