CMS and Slaughters latest firms to withdraw TC offers 

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By Legal Cheek on

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SQE fallout continues


CMS and Slaughter and May have become the latest law firms to rescind the training contract offers of future trainees who failed to pass the SQE at the first time of asking. It comes just days after we revealed Clifford Chance had let go of around four offer holders under similar circumstances.

CMS, which takes on 95 trainees each year on a starting salary of £50,000 in London, has confirmed a number of training contract offers have been revoked following the most recent batch of SQE1 results.

A spokesperson for the firm told Legal Cheek:

“While we hold the expectation for successful completion of the SQE examinations on the first attempt, we understand that occasional setbacks may occur. Considering the recent SQE1 results, we have regretfully withdrawn certain training contract offers; however, we have diligently evaluated each circumstance individually. We maintain ongoing communication with all our students to ensure they are informed about and utilising the additional support resources at their disposal, should the need arise.”

The SQE Hub: Your ultimate resource for all things SQE

Meanwhile it’s understood that Slaughters has also taken similar action.

A spokesperson for the firm, which also recruits around 95 trainees each year on a starting salary of £50,000, said: “We don’t comment on individual situations, but each instance is assessed on a case-by-case basis.”

The Magic Circle firm followed a similar process under the Legal Practice Course (LPC), the predecessor to the SQE.

Earlier today we reported that the Patrick McCann, chair of the City of London Law Society’s training committe, had called on law firms to adopt a more supportive approach towards aspiring lawyers sitting the “extremely challenging” SQE.

“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.”

57 Comments

Solicitor

How dare any employer expect their staff to have competency in the area they are to work in.

Crusty

Expecting NQ level results from not-even trainees is completely absurd. As is expecting competency in non-practice area knowledge- I doubt any current Slaughter’s NQs could recall their criminal procedure law in sufficient detail to pass the SQE

10PQE City Managing Associate

Agreed

Quiet

You simply don’t understand you wan***

Tom

You deem advising on any matter without ever referring back to legal texts to be the only indicator of competence? If you’ve ever referred back to a legal text in your career before advising on a matter, you cannot claim that the SQE memory test should be a make or break test of competence

Spike

Ignorant comment! – do you even know the procedure for making an interim injunction?

Future Trainee

At least they have taken individual circumstances into account unlike CC.

Has anyone heard anything about Browne Jacobson? Read that well over half their cohort failed SQE1…

Anon

Completely idiotic move by the SRA – “Let’s put in an exam from trainee solicitors and they only pass if they reach the standard of an NQ solicitor! Makes complete sense!! Let’s make sure that what needs to be achieved in 2026 is being completed in 2024 itself!!!!”

Singer

Time has come and gone for words!

The SQE needs to be replaced otherwise I’ll become comatose!

second year law student

icl as a second year law student who worked like hell to secure a place on a vac scheme, it’s scary to know that even if I secure a tc off the back of the scheme, that is only half the battle, it’s so exhausting

Leopard

Wait until you start the job. You’ll then know the true meaning of exhausting.

Still looking for a TC

SQE doesn’t test the level of knowledge to the point of an NQ solicitor. The content is the same as an LLB/LPC. Firms have historically (and still do) revoked TCs for failing to get 2:1’s, or passing the LPC. This is not new. Why is there outrage at the fact firms want to employ people who are competent of the law? Isn’t this a positive thing?

Just sat SQE1

The content is entirely different and a LOT wider than an LLB/the LPC. Not only do they contrast in terms of content, they are completely different tests and environments.

Failing to get a 2:1 or a pass on the LPC is absolutely incomparable to an SQE fail.

The whole point of the creation of the SQE was that it is to reflect the knowledge of a day 1 NQ, which everyone collectively agrees is absolutely absurd.

Tick Tock

Just a factually incorrect statement – SRA guidance literally states there is a difference in the standards of the assessments, LPC being that of a trainee and SQE the standard of an NQ. This is proven by the pass rates being significantly higher under the LPC than the measly 50% of the SQE.

Better secure that TC soon mate otherwise you’ll soon find out what the SQE is really about.

NotAsBadAsItSeems

But it isn’t significantly higher. LPC pass rate was around 57% . Its a 6% difference. Remember too that people are able to take the SQE without a law degree of pgdl.

I would be interetee to know what the percentage of those failing SQE1 are in that group!

The WillyMac Show

LPC pass rate was not 57% lol

Anonymous

Read the articles. It was often lower than that.

Disgruntled Associate

I find it absurd that 1) you can get a job to become a lawyer in England, without having studied law properly; and then 2) complain when you have your offer withdrawn since you failed the professional qualification for that job. It’s a job, which you can’t do, not a handout.

Every other country in the world needs a proper law degree, not some 8 month top up course, to become a lawyer, years of rigorous academic study.

It’s absurd seeing these wannabe trainees wanting a ridiculous £100k+ paying job after studying some irrelevant degree at Oxbridge and completing a 8 month speed run of a law degree but failing the actual professional qualification. I’d be interested to see the breakdown of SQE failure by degree studied at the undergraduate level.

Crab in a bucket

How often, and to what extent, do you use what you learned at uni in your day-to-day practice?

Anon12

Currently sitting the SQE – I see 0 advantage to those that studied a full law undergrad v GDL – I did the latter, in class the knowledge of GDL students is greater of ‘underlying law’ (i.e. those subjects taught at undergrad/GDL and taken forward to SQE but not taught) than those who did full law degrees. In fact they’re at a disadvantage, having to relearn what they did years ago compared to what GDL folk just completed. I only know those who did full undergrads to fail.

Kirkland 10pqe with a fleet of lambos

Lol shut up bro, just cause you never would have got newr oxbridge

Chip on your shoulder?

The irrelevant degree at Oxbridge still probably has greater academic rigour than a lot of the tripe law degrees that law firms are suddenly pretending have any worth.

How many law schools are still falsely teaching, for example, that there is a seperation of legal and equitable title when a trust is formed?

Eversheds Sunderwho?

Every single trainee from ever sheds failed. This has been circulated around ULaw. It is a difficult exam – don’t blame the students they are trying their hardest. Why is it every single one of these trainees failed?

Lol

Can anyone corroborate?

Anon

I am not sure if all of them, but can confirm that at least 4 have failed

Where's the Tea?

Absolutely and categorically untrue mate. I go to uni with plenty of them and the entire cohort has passed at least one exam. Eversheds have also been very kind so as to fund resits.

Link’s Lifeguard

“This has been circulated around ULaw”, what a load of twaddle, get back in your B-Tech BCLP shaped box.

Bob's Burgers

I would advise you to check your sources before you start spreading misinformation. This is a sensitive time for a lot of people, you should try and respect that.

Private equity monster

Study harder next time sweaty

anonymous

Learn to spell sweetie

Anon

Very well said Patrick McCann. This is a new exam. The manner of testing and the range is not something these students have experienced. It is not comparable in any way to the LPC. What is the approach taken with those who have come the apprentice route. Are they too to be ‘dismissed’.

Anonymous

Apart from the pass rate which, crucially, is distinctly comparable.

MC Partner with gout

The SRA has royally f*cked future trainees and firms. Clowns. Luckily the market is down otherwise there would be a noticeable resourcing impact. Don’t believe firms have fully assessed the risk the SQE poses to their operations regarding trainee/NQ numbers and onboarding schedule. Just turn a blind eye and keep billing paralegals at NQ rates…

Anonymous

It likely won’t make a difference given the pass rate isn’t particularly different to the LPC.

Slaughtered and Dismayed

Slaughter and May, in my opinion, elitist and this is unsurprising.

Partner US firm

The economy is not doing well, there is a lot of uncertainty with the US elections this November and what a future labour government may mean for businesses.

Think about it – most of these trainees were hired before the war in Ukraine started just when we started to recover from covid.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight these firms clearly hired too many trainees. The sqe is the perfect excuse for these firms to cut staff numbers.

Links common sense

Patrick McCann doing us proud as always.

Former Lawyer

And yet Links have also rescinded training contracts for the same reason but seem to be keeping very quiet on this point.

Links Trainee

They only rescinded after they had a resit as far as I’m aware. What would I know though. I’m only in the current cohort.

anxious applicant

Do you know what the Links policy is generally? Are they generally understanding or is it very case by case? Have there been any unfair(ish) rescissions after first fail?

Don’t believe the BS

Why are you lying you weirdos? Every Eversheds future trainee has not failed SQE.

Future Trainee CMS - Now Thinking of Applying Elsewhere

I am thinking of just jumping ship and starting my TC applications again, finding a diff firm. I heard so many good things about CMS, culture, people etc but if they are not looking at resits on a case basis then it was just a window dressing.

Trainee

You heard good things about CMS? What about all the bad stuff? If I were you I’d definitely try to get at least another training contract offer.

Future Trainee

What is ‘the bad stuff’ you are referring to?

Former Lawyer

CMS have said in the article above “we have diligently evaluated each circumstance individually” above. Probably best you look into another career if you struggle to read even a short article correctly…

They haven’t “diligently evaluated anything”

I know this, because I know the stories behind some of the trainees that were let go. How are you going to get rid of someone for failing by one mark – and dealing with genuine health issues?

It is a load of crock.

Future Trainee @ CMS

What they write and what they do is different. Best to stop polishing your smooth brain.

I have a bridge to sell you

Best you look at a capacity check if you believe generic HR jargon

Current Trainee

CMS also do not have enough NQ positions for trainees (its quite clear they have overhired!) ….and so might be a smart move

Lol

Being a lawyer in the UK is so fun guys 🤩

Annoymous

I sat SQE1 in January. I passed FLK1 but not FLK2. I passed 8 out of the 14 modules having had 4 months to study after passing my open university law degree. Despite passing more than 50% of the modules I failed. I will not be able to afford 1k to retake so that’s my legal aspirations done. I completed a degree in law whilst working full time in a law firm 40 hours a week. I work in a small legal aid firm dealing with housing claims. Its ludicrous that I am expected to know conveyancing, probate and criminal law when I want to work in my specific area. SQE is to hard it’s not right.

annon

If you only want to focus on specialising in one area of law then CILEx is still an option…many discount CILEx but CILEx is still considered a “lawyer”

Anonymous

To the disgruntled associate: What do you mean by studying law properly? The SQE exams tests not only the knowldge of the law but its application to a set of facts. Oxbridge non-law graduates are a very clever bunch, the elite in academia- they can pick up the legal knowledge required to pass SQE exams and also to become Supreme Court Judges! There is no higher value in a law degree than in a Physics or English degree. Non-law graduates are preferred by firms as more intellectual and creative than law graduates. Imagine since age of 18 just memorising cases and black letter law.. The study of law better left for graduate study.. be it PGDL and or SQE.

Harvey Spector

Standard practice. Firms are firing and have been firing lawyers since the downturn of the tech market in early Jan 2023. For people who are supposed to have commercial awareness, it seems only the Partner here does.

Yes I am sure the SQE is difficult but so is most things in life. Including the LPC.

It’s a different puzzle box which is yet to be fully grasped by teachers and students.

Firms are using the failures as an accuse to lower intake whilst also weeding out those who are not the brightest. If you have TCs at top tier law firms, expect nothing less and move forward.

Idk chief

I did the LPC – I don’t think it’s fair to compare it to the SQE and honestly? The LPC wasn’t that hard

US associate

To be brutally honest the majority of trainees have passed the SQE and so it is perfectly fair to rescind training contracts in accordance with their terms.

It doesn’t matter whether the SQE assessment is based on the practical experience of a NQ. The real question is why did you fail when 90% of your fellow trainees have passed and are now happily trainees at these wonderful firms.

Pedant

*Eversheds *Suther*who

They didn’t merge with a firm of Mackem.

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