City Law Society training chief urges law firms to support trainees struggling with SQE

Avatar photo

By Legal Cheek on


Clifford Chance revoked TC offers while Macfarlanes has ‘pass first time’ policy

In the same week that Clifford Chance revoked training contract offers of students who didn’t pass the SQE at the first attempt, the chair of the City of London Law Society’s training committee has repeated his call for law firms to adopt a more supportive approach towards aspiring lawyers sitting the “extremely challenging” exam.

“I’d urge all law firms to engage with their future talent who need to retake their first attempt at SQE1.” Patrick McCann told Legal Cheek. “SQE1 is an extremely challenging assessment, testing against NQ knowledge criteria (with most sponsored students undergoing the assessment more than two years before solicitor qualification), with a pass rate only just above 50%, very significantly below the pass rates for LPC, which SQE replaces.”

Earlier this week Legal Cheek exclusively revealed that Clifford Chance terminated the training contract offers of around four future trainees who recently failed to pass SQE1 on the first attempt. Macfarlanes also has a similar ‘must pass first time‘ rule, but it’s understood that it is yet to make any final decisions regarding the futures of trainees who failed.

SQE Employability: Discover how to make QWE work for you

McCann continued:

“As a new assessment, there is not yet sufficient data to demonstrate the applicability of this assessment to success as a qualified solicitor workplace and more work to be done to prove the objectivity of the assessment in particular re candidates from communities underrepresented in the solicitors’ profession. In these circumstances, and given firms have invested significantly in securing the best talent, I’d urge all City law firms to adopt a supportive approach. CLLS Training Committee has published guidance for law firms; I would be happy to speak to any law firms dealing with this.”

This statement echos advice given last year by the CLLS, urging firms to adopt a “supportive, understanding approach”. While the society provided various options to firms for students who fail exams, such as long and short-term deferrals, they cautioned that revoking offers could result in negative publicity.

Legal Cheek understands that some firms are adopting a similar approach to Clifford Chance, whilst others are allowing an additional resit. Some outfits are also considering individual student positions on a case-by-case basis.

Whilst McCann is also global head of learning at Linklaters, his comments are solely in his capacity as chair of the CLLS’ training committee.

Related Stories

news SQE Hub

City law firms urged not to abandon unsuccessful SQE trainees

City of London Law Society calls for 'supportive, understanding approach' for 'little-known assessment'

Mar 27 2023 2:47pm