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

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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.

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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.


Future trainee @ McDonalds

How many articles is legal cheek going to do on the SQE?!?! Move on!

Keep up the pressure

The volume of SQE posts reflects the general sentiment of people who read this site the most

Flip my burger wagie

OMG how dare Legal Cheek write about an impactful and ongoing situation!

Seriously pipe down and go back to your homework Archibald


Until the snowflake generation that are currently masquerading as aspirational lawyers get their bottles from their mothers apparently. Anyone would have thought there was no such thing as exams until this whinging lot came along.

Alan's Hairline

Says the second year student at a non-RG who’s watching Jordan Peterson instead of finishing his 2.2 trusts essay


All lip service


Here is the problem: LPC providers, such as BPP and ULaw, were chosen by many law firms to prepare their trainees for the SQE. However, these firms failed to conduct proper due diligence to understand what is actually offered by BPP and ULaw (eg number of mock exams and their level of difficulty), and how they can ensure their trainees achieve a passing mark on the SQE. The SQE is primarily based on the QLTS (which was the previous solicitor’s exam for foreign lawyers) for years, but neither BPP nor ULaw had any previous experience in teaching trainees for the QLTS. This resulted in the provision of SQE courses and mock tests that aren’t fit for purpose. The fault actually lies with the firms for not conducting their due diligence and understanding that being established LPC providers does not necessarily mean they can offer good SQE courses. So they should be ashamed for cancelling training contracts for those who failed.


I agree but the practice areas for SQE don’t cover the areas the big firms operate in – that’s why they have to do prep courses with BPP/ULaw so they cover the additional modules like M&A. Also without SRA disclosing past papers it will be hard for them to know how to replicate the exams. I took the SQE, and the sample questions from the SRA website and the exam questions itself were VERY DIFFERENT.

Nicoise Salad

I think those are the two main providers of prep courses which may be why big firms have gone to them.

It doesn’t look like all students going to them have failed though so either the courses are doing some good improving their chances for most students? (or everyone is failing but the majority are keeping it schtum? )

The alternative would be no one provides these courses and all students are left to their own devices… is that what you propose as a better way? Who should students be trained by?

Patrick remains undefeated

Risk averse working class kids like me wouldn’t have applied to MC firms and others with the culture we are currently witnessing. Those clawback clauses look a whole lot more scary now. Despite what you read on here. Us poverty stricken do in fact read the clauses. We sign anyway because it’s our route out of it.


This is ridiculous to pressure stellar corporate firms like this, you fail you fail, it will motivate the students to study harder!

I’m sorry but this generation of young want to be lawyers are an embarrassment if they think a reward is the answer to exam failure. It’s not about being supportive , the firms are already paying them grants and the fees for the course to take the pressure off, those sitting the exams need to learn from their errors so they can be better in the future. They should be relieved the law firm isn’t saying pay the fees and grant back!

So sad this is the the calibre of some young British students. Grow up.

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