Exclusive: Clifford Chance cancels TC offers for students who failed SQE

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By Legal Cheek on


No second chances

Magic Circle giant Clifford Chance has revoked the training contract offers of future trainees who recently failed the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).

Legal Cheek understands that the firm contacted around four future trainees to inform them that their TC offers had been rescinded because they failed to pass SQE1 on the first attempt. It is believed some students missed out by just a few marks.

Members of the firm’s HR team apparently delivered the bad news via a phone call last week and followed up again this week. Legal Cheek understands these calls included advice on what students can do next as well as career consultancy support.

The decision not to offer resits is significant given Clifford Chance is the largest training contract provider in the country. The Legal Cheek Firms Most List 2024 shows it offers up to 110 training positions each year and sends it futures trainees to The University of Law. The firm provides students with an SQE grant of £17,500 and also covers law school and examine fees.

The SQE Hub: Your ultimate resource for all things SQE

There are swirling rumours circulating the internet regarding the approaches that other major firms are taking in relation to trainees who fail the SQE. Some outfits seem to be adopting a similar approach to Clifford Chance, while others are providing future trainees with at least one opportunity to retake. Others are said to be adopting a case-by-case approach.

Last year Legal Cheek reported that the City of London Law Society had urged law firms to adopt a “supportive, understanding approach” towards trainees who fail to pass SQE1 at the first attempt. Options floated included a short or long deferral, taking into account extenuating circumstances and, among other things, whether the failure was marginal or significant. The body also suggested rescission of the training contract as a third option, but noted this could potentially result in “negative publicity” for the firm which “could be felt through the next few years”.

SQE1 tests ‘Functioning Legal Knowledge’ (FLK) in two multiple-choice tests of 180 questions each, and covers a broad range of topics similar including business, criminal law, tort, land and contract law. Students must also successfully complete SQE2, which assesses both skills and the application of legal knowledge.

A spokesperson for Clifford Chance told us that “it doesn’t comment on specific applications”.

Do you know what approach your firm is taking? Drop us an email at tips@legalcheek.com 📧



Those who receive training contracts will know this would be a consequence if they fail the exams. Its has been this way for LPC and Law Society finals at some firms too. Indeed in those days some trainees were at work one day and gone the next when results were in October.


Which was understandable for well understood exams, with plenty of representative practice material available.

The SQE is comparatively a shitshow.


I agree (although both the LPC and SQE (and the predecessor Finals course I did) all had about 50% failure rate so that in itself is nothing new. However I hate SQE1 and think we should revert to the LPC.


The LPC has never had a failure rate even approaching 50%. The SQE does.


The LPC failure rate is really misleading. The vast majority of sponsored students passed the LPC and a lot of people got distinctions..

The SQE is just a different beast and no one should compare it.

Dear Jane

Thank you for telling us, yet again, about your Finals course you sat in the 60s and you lawyer kids who did the LPC and who you love dearly.

It is just as interesting hearing about it the 1000th time as it was hearing it the first.

Plain Jane

Did you also hear about how it took her 125 applications to get a TC? I always love hearing that same anecdote over and over from her, makes me feel like I’ve got hope!

You will get there in the end.

I disagree. The SQE is harder than the LPC, but it’s fair and assessed by the same standard. “Shitshow” sounds like whining.

Dear lawyer

I’m sorry, but the LPC and SQE are in no way comparable for pass rates, content, or examination procedure. If you took all the qualified lawyers from any magic circle firm and had them sit down to do the SQE in its current form, I doubt that more than 20% would actually pass, and that is being generous.


Why so harsh? I mean lawyers and solicitors are not like medics who have literal lives to save or quantum physicists who engineer atomic bombs and spacecraft. It’s just Google-able knowledge you can ask AI about. All a solicitor does is just editing and formatting contracts and agreements anyway so…


Because there are too many people doing this. Supply and demand can’t be a surprise. Terrible to be on the receiving end of being “managed”, but where is the promised land of freedom and respect for the average junior employee without experience in any industry?


There are two sides to this: one is that candidates knew this was a condition when they signed the TC and the other is that the exam is very difficult. Regardless of what is right, the corporate world is ruthless.


People can now make an informed choice as to where to apply. Just don’t apply to firms that do this.


You’re forgetting that a lot of people signed for a TC when people didn’t realise how awful the SQE was…


you must keep your peasantly opinions to yourself pal.


As budding lawyers – you’d hope they read the T&Cs when they accepted course fees and financial support! Unlike many other students who hold jobs alongside third studies!


I remember a US firm trainee telling me last year that the SQE will open the floodgates to a generation of incompetent lawyers. Junior lawyer divisions of the SRA were openly against the SQE exams system. I wonder if the optic has changed since the 52% SQE1 pass rate.

Anon law school

I don’t know whether the JLD objected for the same reasons as a random and perhaps uniformed US firm trainee. Most pressure groups e.g. the City of London Law Society Training Division (part of the Law Soc) coordinated firm responses which raised concerns about all the things students are now grumbling about. Most firms, etc were not talking about reduced quality they were worried about the chaos that would ensue for years from the change and sceptical about some of the benefits the SRA spoke of e.g. the idea that people would be able to pass without prep courses. That’s why most firms put future trainees on one. They wanted to give you the best chance of passing. But it doesn’t mean they can keep the door open for years ready for the point at which you pass. They need some certainty over who is joining, when. Some of the ways of managing that have been extremely harsh but the commercial reality is that they do need to manage their numbers and having people fail is a new reality they’re having to to find a fair way to deal with.


Firms want to decide who jons the profession then. But the SQE take that power away.

Anon law school

No, the firms want to decide who joins their firm. The SRA enabling anyone to qualify doesn’t force any firm to employ them and so in this regard, I don’t think they see it as of consequence.

Old School

US firms make them wear uniforms these days?


Sorry but I don’t have any sympathy for anyone in this situation.


You’re one cold-hearted


Language! Anyways. They knew what they signed up for and what were the terms and conditions. They made an informed choice as to where to apply and still, knowing that they could lose their TC if they failed the SQE decided to go ahead. What’s the big deal?

SQE passer

When people signed their tc’s most didn’t know how ridiculous the sqe was. Unless you’ve sat the exam, shut up. It was the most disorganised, ableist exam to ever exist and nearly everyone is calling for it to be recalled.

Law students can be so insufferable, jealous and bitter sometimes. This isn’t going to get you a kiss from a MC partner


I passed whilst studying alongside full time work in a Magic Circle firm. It was easy. Not sure what everyone’s complaining about.


Even at the point of prospective trainees receiving their TC offers, huge information asymmetry persists.

The SQE is notorious for being shrouded in obscurity. The SRA does not offer any official past papers (unlike the NY Bar which the SQE1 is supposed to mirror in format). It is common sentiment that the sample SQE1 questions SRA released is nowhere close to indicative of the difficulty of the real thing. Institutions like BPP and ULaw which firms contract with the prep trainees have no actual knowledge on what the real thing entails either, so their mock assessments become educated guesses at what the SRA will test. And the SRA stamps every test with an NDA, so it’s not like info asymmetry can be improved over time.

So the rhetoric that trainees know what they’re signing up for when they accept their TC offers is honestly a little disingenuous. Sure, prospective trainees may have an inkling of the difficulty of the SQE from the low pass rates.

What they will be unaware of is the lack of support and information the SRA offers in relation to the exams. They will likely only find this out halfway through their preparatory courses for the SQE, when there’s 2-3 months left before the exams.

Imagine being in that position, then realising you really only have one shot at this because your employer has put in place a blanket no resit policy. It’s no wonder anxiety is such a recurrent theme among SQE candidates.

The SRA has much to improve on in terms of how the SQE is conducted, but these kind of “you only have one shot” stances some firms take are not helping.


Actually, a ulaw teacher told me she’s done the SQE because she was Australian qualified only previously, so they do have actual knowledge.

Thanks for playing

The big deal is, they did lose it. Mother and father wouldn’t love them if they failed. To be told on the phone with the you are fired attitude by HR peasants gives you all the right to be extra gen-z. Don’t worry, they will still be cut-throat lawyers even if rejected by this particular cut-throat law firm.

Future Trainee

As someone who sat the last SQE1 assessment in January, I can’t explain how hard the exam is.

I’ve graduated with a first from a prestigious RG uni, achieved distinction in the GDL and secured a TC with a major US firm. I worked incredibly hard, had no Christmas or NYE. Yet, I only passed by a margin. This was the same for many of my class mates.

Yes, some people fail the exam because they were not sufficiently prepared, but for the most part, many people who failed worked hard and sacrificed a lot for the exam. People don’t like to say it, but the truth is, this could have happened to any of us.

I’m sharing this so everyone can understand the nature of the exam. Firms, training providers, HR teams and lawyers who took the LPC are simply unable to understand how hard and inaccessible the exam is.

For candidates still applying to a TC, watch this space carefully! DO NOT apply to firms (like CC) that clearly do NOT understand how difficult the exam and are not willing to give people a second chance. They are clearly over recruiting just to get rid of future trainees down the line.

What’s ironic is that CC claims to support diversity and inclusion. Shame on them!

Magic Circus bozo

Can confirm Clifford Chance is one of the most disgustingly hypocritical employers ever

Anon junior Magic Circle associate

Same – I did my training contract there and it was the worst two years of my life. Couldn’t wait to leave that place.


CC and diversity and inclusion in the same sentence? Give me a break… Aspiring solicitors can just apply elsewhere really. But given the mess the SRA made out of the SQE why would anyone want to get into a career in law?

Old School

I found this comment interesting and more than a little humbling, thanks for sharing.

I’m 15+ PQE having spent time in MC, large national and now senior in-house. I had fallen somewhat into the trap of “even if they don’t work less, the youth of today certainly bleat more”.

Truth be told I did not find the LPC very hard – certainly easier than required for the 2:1 I got from a modern uni. I was a couple of marks off a distinction for my LPC. I can’t say based on reliable fact, but I would be astounded if LPC pass rates in my time were at anything like as low as 50% – I’d guess at 80%+

I suspect I have underestimated both the SQE difficulty and my own privilege, and would encourage sharing of anecdotes like the above by those sitting SQE.

Knowing you have one shot in advance is quite the double-edged sword in my view. My TC was conditional on a 2:1, but there was in practice a level of flex.

Future Trainee

Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experience. I wish more senior lawyers were able to reflect on their experiences and privileges like you did.

It’s very frustrating hearing senior lawyers dismissing our experiences just because we are young and supposedly too soft. If people took the time to reflect on their experiences and listen to us and how problematic the current system is, maybe we could have challenged this entire exam, which is only increasing barriers to access the profession.


Unless they claim to support diversity of intellectual ability what is the issue?

Anon law school

Firms, training providers and HR teams are perfectly well able to understand the differences and have spent years trying to highlight the issues through various lobby groups and to the SRA through consultation. Unfortunately the SRA don’t listen them either.

But what firms and HR team facilitating firm policy cannot do, is work their resourcing plans around it to the extent where they can just shrug their shoulders and tell you to join when you can/when you’ve passed.

Some firms are able to be more flexible than others, soften the blow, increase maintenance grants and some cannot or will not. Some approach it with more compassion than others and I’m sorry for the people such as those from CC.

Random posting lawyers who sat the LPC may be a different matter, but please don’t assume that people whose actually job it is to get people through the various hurdles to qualification don’t understand how difficult the exam is.

Future Trainee

I fundamentally disagree with you.

During a feedback session with my training provider, some of us shared how hard the exam was and our fear that we might get our TC offers rescinded if we failed the exam. One of the senior management people in that meeting basically dismissed our experience and said we shouldn’t fear because no firm would rescind TC offers as the consequences for them (bad PR) could be horrible. Months later, various firms are rescinding TC offers….

Not to mention how they failed to predict how bad the exam can actually be. There were so many questions covering topics that we never came across (and this is the reality for most people regardless of their training provider).

Regarding HR teams, I am really sorry but unless they sat for the LPC/SQE themselves, they are simply UNABLE to understand the nature of this exam. Sure, most people assume that the exam is hard, but they have no idea how bad it is, otherwise they would not be rescinding TC offers. As is the case with many senior lawyers, they just assume that we complain too much and we will all be fine (which is not true for many candidates).

Anon GR Partner

It’s pretty naive to say “Regarding HR teams…they are simply UNABLE to understand the nature of this exam….otherwise they would not be rescinding TC offers”.

Two things can exist at once – understanding/sympathy that you’re at the sharp end of change and the need to manage the numbers/resources of a firm.

And assuming people can’t understand something unless they’ve literally been through it themselves is a really strange argument. On that basis, if you qualify as a lawyer, you won’t be able to advise your clients because you’re not one of them. A doctor can’t treat your pain unless they’ve lived through it. The entire service industry wouldn’t exist if that were true. Firms are not making their decisions based on your exam experience. They’re making decisions based on what they need. They can show a degree of flexibility in the interests of fairness sometimes but only if it works commercially.


I agree. Far too much content being examined in one hit.

SQE Survivor

SQE is bull****. The SRA and the city firms know it. Just a matter of time before they “repeal/amend” the entire framework. They won’t abolish it because it will make them seem incompetent, backlash of ruining people’s lives (quite literally) and experimenting. Look forward to what mess they next concoct up.

Also, who wants to be at a firm where they treat trainees like that? Really telling of their “true” culture rather than the glammed up grad rec nonsense.

CC in the gutter

Appalling. Bet 90% of the lawyers there couldn’t sit SQE1 and pass


Well yes, this is entirely true since I believe the pass rate for 45+ is under/around10%


The cohort of 45+ who sat it are not in the same intellectual universe as the 45+ year old partners at CC lmao …

Corporate reality

Not surprised at all – I’ve heard of a guy losing his TC at CC for having to go back to home country for national service… Imagine failing an exam…

Anon partner

Typical CC. Just apply elsewhere


funny how with its cringiest diversity gimmicks among the City firms (or even by US uni campus standards) CC goes on to discriminate based on ones veteran status tut tut


So in the end he avoided obesity?


So if an LPC student fails SQE 2 in the middle of their TC what next??? Since CC have 20 something trainees who started this month, having been fast-tracked via the LPC route..


The LPC students don’t have to do SQE2, what are you talking about?


Some firms are now requesting LPC grads to complete the SQE 2 before starting their TC


Yes, but this is not the case for the CC trainees who started this month… They all qualify through the old LPC route and do not have to do SQE2.


CC had 55 trainees start this month, all did the LPC.

Anonymous Trainee

For some firms, their first cohort of the SQE graduates will join in September 2024.

As for the “City Consortium” firms, their first cohort of graduates joined in September 2023. However, saying that, there are still a few people joining that have done the LPC, many who were hired to fill in the trainee “gaps” due to some SQE graduates deferring and so on.

US firm associate

Even in the US many biglaw firms will let new associates have one or two bar exam resits before firing them. And that’s for exams that are tried and tested like the NY/CA bar. So for CC to rescind TCs because trainees have failed such an elusive exam is undeniably cruel.

Newly qualified corporate solicitor

That’s why CC is falling behind US firms. CC is the most pretentious law firm in London.


But do you hear about US lawyers being seen as a very respectable profession? They value people like Erin Brockovich more than an expertise.

CC is a sack of garbage

At least people now know where NOT to apply!

O me miserum!

Waaaa waaaa!!!



Archibald is cringe

Hello Archibald 🙂 No socialising to do? Oh wait…

Cc maxxed

Particularly bad for CC as they recruit heavily from their first year spark scheme – so many of these TC holders would have accepted before the SQE had even gone through first substantial sitting with only vague assurances from grad Rec and LPC cohorts that it would be like the lpc only multiple choice


The SQE is NOT multiple choice. It is single best answer questions, taken in questionable exam centres, with a mix of subjects on each hours long session. It tests ability to learn and retain information and ability to apply that knowledge (no open book exams) in very pressurised conditions when each of 5 possible answers may at first glance be correct and it tests that candidates have the knowledge level of a day 1 NQ, not a day 1 trainee. There is absolutely no comparison to the LPC and it beggars belief that they are operating both systems which allows LPC candidates to have an unquestionably easier route. When the LPC was introduced there was only the LPC available from the first day – no one could take (or would want to take) Law Society Finals instead.

MC nq

Imagine you’re a uni student who took part in CC’s SPARK scheme and got a TC offer at the end of your first year. By the time you graduate from uni, do the GDL, and study for the SQE you would’ve been a future trainee for up to 4 years – for most uni students that’s something like 20-25% of your life connected to CC. Then after 4 years of wining and dining you and telling you you’re special (all under the facade of “supporting your development”) they drop you just because you failed a single (albeit important) exam?

Of course those of us who have worked in corporate settings know that the corporate overlords don’t give two craps about you and will replace you in a heartbeat. But imo this goes beyond mere cruelty and into the realm of raw callousness. If I was a student, I’d seriously rethink applying to firms like CC that don’t seem understand the nature of the SQE. In fact, if I was an incoming trainee at CC, I’d also rethink whether it’s the kind of firm I would ever want to stay at. If they do this to a bunch of students who have nothing on the line, who’s to say what they would do to a client-facing fee-earner?


Equally they have benefitted from being a future trainee in terms of confidence, financial support, ‘prestige’ and have had the exams paid for – so to make passing those exams, which candidates without training contracts who have had to fund their exams themselves have passed, a condition of being kept in as a trainee does make sense. Provided that this has been made clear from the start. And up to now there has been a choice between the LPC and SQE for the majority of students; if they chose the SQE then they definitely chose an infinitely more difficult exam which was new and untested.

sit the SQE yourself mate

the people in this comment section who have viewpoints similar to this (finding some sort of way to blame SQE students) all seem to also be people who clearly have no idea what they are talking about! No one who has done/is doing the SQE chose it over the LPC.


I’ve sat it, wasn’t hard.


They should give trainees the option to defer their start date and pay out of pocket for a retake from their generous maintenance grant, or do the QWE route. But they prefer cruelty.


What is the QWE route? Candidates who take the SQE have to do QWE as well. It is not an either/or.

Diane Abbott

They could take away the TC but still let them paralegal while studying the SQE1. Seems excessive to cut them off when you’ve identified them as a high potential emerging talent.

Junior Leachman

I agree with Diane Abbott. At least let her or she continue working and develop their legal skills.


This would be logical. But the firm seems to believe that they are damaged goods and it deserves to have the “best” crops whatever that means. Much humane if you are the son or daughter of the firm’s owner at some places. Ruthless competition may not be the very worst culture.


Unfortunately there are several people who have failed SQE who think it appropriate to whine and be outraged on social media that they haven’t passed, having never previously failed an exam and consider it their right to qualify when they planned to qualify and to be passed by the SRA etc. I really don’t think they are going to think it appropriate to be expected to pay to retake the exam – having had the fees for their failed exam paid by their firm – and they clearly think it outrageous that they will have to defer their planned qualification date.


It’s a disgrace but I’m not surprised CC would do this…this is gonna have ripple effect on CC’s recruitment..mark my words…

Not a lawyer


Not a lawyer

i’m talking about the firm btw not the people who failed, wishing them well! but CC are flops for this

Even less of a lawyer

pop off!!! as you should. fight for the rights of this poor trainees🏋️🏋️🏋️!!!! they will be given justice ⚖️⚖️🧑‍⚖️🧑‍⚖️🧑‍⚖️

What is in the disgraceful inhuman policy?

As someone who has applied to each MC firm, CC has prided themselves on their outgoing, supportive, BRIGHT, approach, glamorised by great marketing to attract talent.

I am happily at another MC firm and glad I did not go for CC. This is appalling, every other firm has offered resits.

Don’t bother applying to CC – their policies and their agenda does not align with actions

CC Insider

Unless you’re an influencer, then they’ll treat you like royalty.

Grad Rec (Southern England)

Very surprising given the difficulty level of SQE compared to the LPC. We should be supporting future trainees during the SQE transmission, not throwing them off a cliff at the first sign of difficulty. I doubt this will do any good for CC recruitment. God only knows the best lawyer colleagues with the most successful practices are rarely ever the best exam-performers or the most academic.

SQE survivor

Certain other city firms (despite having a smaller problem with failure) have been FAR less callous than this. Putting such little thought/research into a £30k+ investment and then throwing it all away because of the resulting lack of understanding is really silly business…

CC insider

CC allowed resits of Stage 1 of the LPC and this move is clearly a rollback on that policy.


I think anyone on the inside of CC knows that CC have over recruited trainees in the last few years (there has been a proliferation of pro bono seats, client secondment seats, best delivery seats etc. just to find every trainee a home for 6 months). Trainee utilisation is lower year-on-year and CC have just found a way to start reducing numbers. This may just be a sneaky tactic to start reducing the intake numbers from 55(+) to closer to 45 to 50 (and closer to their MC peers).

CC insider 2

Keep the low utilisation, same hours for less pay than most US firms – they can keep over recruiting on this basis 😏


CC doesn’t allow Stage 1 retakes

Trained at CC

They categorically did allow stage 1 retakes for my LPC cohort.


Odd decision given the untested format of SQE and that you are assessed as a Day-1-Solicitor, not a first-seat trainee.

Wow.. Shocked

So what happens next? For these talented young aspiring lawyers who have been promised they would be with a firm for years, grew a connection with, to be dropped in such a rash decision?

Are they being supported by the firm? It seems that they have outsourced their duty of care to a career consultancy firm. Is this what is truly the standard they have set for the profession? Despicable.

I really urge and hope other law firms take pity on this approach adopted by Clifford Chance and give them another Chance indeed.

Do these young lawyers have any more support? Please reach out if you need. I am here to help.

Curious about how CC rescinded

Apparently CC grad rec let people go with a two-minute phone call. Can anyone confirm?


Yes this was the case


That’s utterly appalling

SQE1 survivor

As someone who passed the January 2024 SQE1 exams in Q1 for both, I can only say how disgusted I am that some firms are taking this approach.

I’m on the BPP LLM SQE course and know multiple people who received a ‘not pass’ result. They worked just as hard and are just as competent as those of us who did. Anyone who sat the exam knows that the reality is that the only difference between a near-pass and Q1 is randomly guessing correctly between the 2 answers you have narrowed it down between! That is the ACTUAL reality! [And no, before I get purposefully ignorant answers below, of course there will be some people who don’t pass because they haven’t worked hard enough, but lets not be silly and pretend that CC future trainees won’t have given their all]

How ironic that all these firms that harp on about mental health don’t seem to give a damn what the impact will be on the people they have let go. Imagine having a TC with a top firm one day and being unemployed with no future income (lots of these people will probably have moved to London and will be depending on CC to pay their rent lets not forget) and having to re-start the TC cycle. And further, the impact that knowing that this is the firm’s approach will have on future CC trainees in the next cohort. I have a TC with a top 20 firm and although they weren’t threatening to sack us off immediately, that was pressure enough. The mental toll on them will be absolutely destroying. Absolutely awful decision.

oceangate titan

it’s the same with many finance training contracts.


Two wrongs don’t make a right


Honestly, I believe having a law degree should be enough to qualify as a Solicitor. Thereafter all the practice areas are process and experience driven.


A degree in law has little to do with being a competent solicitor. High percentages of non-law graduates in the ranks of those who become solicitors or barristers attests to that.


Clifford no second Chances


Any news on Mac’s?


No resits, I don’t tolerate failures


Very sorry for those CC students who had their TC rescinded.
I fail to understand why the SRA does still permit two exam routes to access the profession. Their logic for changing the system -creating the SQE- was to guarantee uniformity of standards in the legal profession. As usual half baked measures. This is unfair for all those students who are forced by their firms to sit the SQE rather than the much easier open book LPC exams. It is wrong for the SRA to have left two routes to entry to the profession… when it justified the introduction of the terrible SQE to equalise standards in the profession.


The SRA never left two routes by choice. To phase out the LPC-TC route takes time. It’s the law firms that decided to burden trainees with an extra hurdle and spit them out if they are deemed not the best muscle in the market. Who said the trainees have to pass the SQE too? Not the SRA.


Perhaps the SRA should not allow firms that run these TC to force existing trainees to also do the SQE, if it’s not an imposition on the employers’ freedom.

Caveat Emptor

Good firm. Poor culture and values. Speaks volumes. Great news for the other MC firms. No wonder CC trainees are leaving to American firms.

Trainee lawyers make mistakes. I hope those that failed find an alternative and have great careers. Be nice to see them become grudge holding clients that never forget it. Good luck explaining this to applicants.


The other firms in this case would agree in principle with CC, even though everyone boasts a great collegiate culture (not really). Money has its way.

Personally, I’d hate it too. But I’d hate it less than not getting my expenses paid at all as a self-funder which is most people.


American firms throws more cash at you. But what everyone talks about is that their culture is the worst. You don’t leave the office before 10pm.


Clifford Chance you should be ashamed. For a firm that has spent a fortune in marketing itself as the MC firm who is open, inclusive, and truly cares about the well-being of its employees, this is appalling. I think this harsh decision truly exposes the real culture for trainees inside the firm. Hopefully undergraduates will now favour other firms in their applications who don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

Future MC Trainee (thankfully, not CC)

This is horrific!

Future trainees completing the SQE1 exams are trying their absolute best. I’m set to sit the exams in July and, after seeing this, I am infused with anxiety.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry for hours because of this article. The uncertainty is cruel and torturous.

I wish everyone who is sitting these exams the best of luck. Just try your best – you’ve come so far already <3

Shame on you, CC – pathetic approach.

Not a lawyer

I can vouch, the subject did cry for hours. CC is pathetic !

Even less of a lawyer

i can confirm the anxiety was real 🫨🫨🫨 this is very disheartening for those taking the sqe in july and very stress inducing 😬😬 thankfully you are not a trainee at cc or else i would be angry for you 😡😡😡


well it’s in the training contract. these wannabe lawyers should read their own contract.

CC you should be ashamed of yourself

Complete proof that the CC “mental health allies” image is utter virtue signalling and when the time comes to stand behind their so called values, they fail the young people who trusted them.

Confused US Trainee

Who would have guessed that it would be all the high paying, money hungry evil US firms that are allowing retakes while the ‘accepting of diverse backgrounds and personal circumstances’ MC firms uphold their ‘high standards’ by revoking student Visas (essentially deporting candidates on two days notice) and abandoning students

MC is dead

Yet another nail in the coffin of the ‘magic circle’


Shame on Clifford Chance and any other firm which takes this approach.


Interesting viewpoints from both sides.

I’d love to know what happens if, during your SQE prep course, something awful happens – serious illness, family loss, etc. – which derails your exam date.
Does that mean you’re out?

Confused US Trainee

Attitude is that you should have deferred and not declared fit to submit


This is very concerning, especially considering how discriminatory of a move this would be towards neurodivergent trainees. All that progress trying to be more inclusive, and then making them take the most non-neurodivergent friendly exam possible, and not even give them a chance to resit. I feel like this whole thing will have major ramifications for the legal industry, and in a very bad way. The SQE needs to be taken back to the drawing board.


I know someone who has severe ADHD. Impossible without medication. Work-life balance doesn’t exist if you want to achieve a specific goal that’s beyond difficult given the mental conditions. I’m yet to see how people can pull that off without being a drug addict.


How are we not a corrupt society, if a standardised professional exam assessing legal knowledge regardless of race, education pedigree or social background can achieve such venom of jealous criticism whenever there is a chance?

What are the causations that led to the trainees’ unfortunate situation? It should be an easy question for a first year law student.


Very concerning. I have an IQ of 82 and an attention span of three seconds. I am therefore ‘neurodivergent’ and demand a magic circle TC on the basis of diversity and inclusion. Giving me an unfair leg up over non-neurodivergent losers who do micro-aggressive things like passing exams will have no ramifications for the legal industry whatsoever.


The terms were clear. There are people funding TCs themselves, so why is there a sudden outburst of compassion for those who had £17,500 grants and TCs already lined up?

Salty much?

are you …. by any chance… one of those self-funders who feels a bit salty? Quite obviously, there is an outburst of compassion because people have lost their jobs and become unemployed over a largely mystified and ridiculously difficult exam. It’s a bit different from those who knew and decided from the get-go to self-fund. It’s not that difficult to understand for anyone with a grain of empathy.

Also (FYI) my firm has pass first-time written into our contracts but grad rec told us that they didn’t have an official policy and would decide on a case-to-case basis depending both on how many passed and the circumstances of the individual. So actually, no, the terms were not clear.


The terms are clear. You fail, you go. And you have signed that. It’s the firm’s discretion to not fire. But the gun is in their hand. Also, the current employment law is, employer can let anyone go if he has less than two years’ continuous service. So the law and the fact are both quite clear. I don’t understand the confusion.

Compassion normally comes from those who have passed and therefore not necessarily able to empathise except for feeling guilty of passing a very competitive exam. But that doesn’t change the fact a contract is a contract.

I’m just looking at this objectively. It’s buyer beware. It’s clear. So, it’s fair.

strange response

you shouldn’t need to have even heard of the SQE to feel empathy for a young person who has lost their hard-to-come-by job offer. Find a therapist


The limbic system of the brain always overwhelms the ability to reason in a difficult situation. Sympathy was never not given. But the reason is not thrown out of the window.



What do you mean a “young person”? We are all adults judging by the same standard, assuming the contract was not signed by mistake or under duress, it’s freedom of contract.

Are they asked to pay back the money? If so, they deserve even more sympathy. But the same principle stands, you agreed to it.

Btw, people who’re hoping to quit their TC are not quitting halfway because they are threatened with a huge fee in the contract which they freely signed. It’s harsh in or out, gen-z.


The exam isn’t even that hard.


All of this toxicity must be beneficial to CC’s reputation, contrary to what whining people believe. Simply because it’s not a trainee’s market, and it won’t be for at least another ten years. For, people may feel insignificant, they still want to do their best to be lawyers and be employed at top firms.

Especially for those who still fear that success is the absolute only way to get their parents to love them. Their mental health is wrecked long before their academic and career achievements. This contract revocation may be a trigger to their mental health issues. It’s literally not for the faint hearted.


Autocorrect correction: “insignificant” is actually “indignant”.

SC ex trainee

We had a situation at my sc firm where 2 girls failed LPC one module on the LPC and were booted off. Incredible to see how both girls managed to secure another TC with similar calibre firms and now one of them in white shoe firm.

Michael C

It seems to me that those who passed by LPC route favour the decision. I think if they tried to sit the exam today they may have found it difficult. Hence, please realise the big picture here. If a law student fails and does not get another chance – it is totally unfair (do not forget that law itself is about being fair) If all law companies take the same stance then a student may never enter the law sector after studying to do just that. Is this situation the result of too many law students available? Or someone in HR flexing the power they have?

Doc Oc

Since when was the legal industry a charity…? There is no concept of fairness that is relevant, and the firms don’t give a toss whether someone studied to be something before failing.


Me got sore bottom after failing SQEE!!!

Archibald is cringe

Back again Archibald? Surely you have summatives to be working on

Actual CC Insider

CC is an internationally leading law firm, not a charity, despite it’s work on the D&I scene. Disappointing to those who didn’t make it but it is listed in the TC t&cs – Honestly can’t see how anyone is surprised one of the highest ranked law firms in the world expects their lawyers to pass exams first time, and it’s simply delusional to think CC seniors wouldn’t pass the SQE.

P.S. US law firms offering re-sits have tiny intake numbers and are desperate to keep them. It’s why they poach lots of magic circle NQs and juniors too (and some, while not all, of those tend to be the ones who don’t get their first choice department at the MC).


Or they just want to be paid more than MC NQs for the same hours’ work

Actual CC Insider

Really is a grass isn’t always greener situation. US firms work more hours than MC (despite what you’ve heard), and they have less junior and business professional support to boot. The billables are higher and holidays are not as safe at US, that’s just a fact.


Should re-name themselves to “Throwing you off a Cliff(ord) and not giving you a second Chance”


Not really surprised with either side in the story.


It’s that attitude and culture you so clearly demonstrate, why the rest of us wouldn’t touch your firm with a barge pole. Sounds like a creche for sociopaths.


If incoming trainees can’t pass the sqe, it does not bode well for a future legal career.

It is irrelevant how different the LPC is to the SQE. You simply do not tell clients “oh your instructions are different therefore I cannot adapt and address what needs to be done”. As a lawyer, you are paid to solve the legal problem that you are presented with. And if you can’t, have a long think about whether you really can succeed.

Superhero CC

From what I’ve heard CC associates and trainees make plenty of mistakes like the rest of us. They apparently don’t in fact flush gold down the toilet bowl after excretion… Clients supposedly keep coming back anyway…


Can Promissory Estoppel be of any help to the fired trainees under the specific circumstances? Even if it would, the court normally would not force the employer to rehire the fired employee because trust between them is already lost. So the trainees could go for damages, in theory.


Estoppel is a shield not a sword, it’s only available as a defence. So I guess it may be useful in case CC wants their money back, but the trainee has relied on a promise to the contrary. Mebbe.


What was the comparative fail rate under LPC?


I’m sorry but the SQE was really straightforward and it was in our contracts. Don’t see what the issue is here


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 of cancelling training contracts for those who failed.


Of course Nick – blame the training provider, blame the firm, blame everyone and absolve the candidate of any responsibility (taking into account extenuating circumstances).

Not in CC

Nasty bastards!!!

Pump hole at the Bailey

Become a Criminal Barrister instead!!

These days you’ll stilll make six figures and still have a home life while having a much more interesting working life!!!

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