EXCLUSIVE: Students who had TCs cancelled among those hit by Kaplan SQE blunder

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By Thomas Connelly on


Told they’d failed SQE1 when actually they’d passed

Students who had their training contract offers rescinded are among those hit by Kaplan’s SQE1 marking error, Legal Cheek can exclusively reveal.

Yesterday, we reported that 175 students, who were initially informed they had failed either Functioning Legal Knowledge 1 and/or Functioning Legal Knowledge 2 (the two parts of SQE1), had actually passed those assessments.

Both Kaplan and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) apologised for the extraordinary blunder, attributing it to a rounding error in the calculation of the final scores.

But the fall-out may only just be beginning. Overnight it has emerged that some students who had their training contracts revoked last month after being told they had failed SQE1 had, in fact, passed the exam.

The SQE Hub: Your ultimate resource for all things SQE

Now their firms are desperately trying to figure out what to do. For obvious reasons Legal Cheek isn’t naming the students or firms involved. We understand that graduate recruitment teams are busy assessing the various options.

Posting on LinkedIn, the City of London Law Society’s Training Committee urged “any employer with impacted candidates to look extremely carefully at the matter”. They continued:

“We anticipate that this will including proactive and speedy consideration of reinstatement of the employment status of impacted candidates, including those for whom employment has been terminated and/or offers/training contracts rescinded,” it said. “The committee is happy to meet any employers to discuss; we are keen to support.”


Litigation Enjoyer

Leigh Day are absolutely licking their lips right now.

Information enjoyer

Can anyone who lost their TC over this tell us whether they got re instated and what firm?

My big toe

Even if reinstated that’s a terrible start to a working relationship


It’s going to be mad awkward to work and train with a firm that cold-heartedly stabbed in the back at the first sign of trouble. They’re going to have self esteem issues for the rest of their working life there.

Making the most of it?

That’s a good point. I’m wondering what someone in this horrible position is actually going to do. If you scraped a pass (as these people likely did, the mistake wouldn’t have just thrown people out at random) in the SQE1, how likely is it that you’ll find a TC at a different firm? Maybe best option is to be a star trainee at the firm that backstabbed you and lateral at the end of the TC? Hopefully when we’re not in a recession anymore…


This is just disgusting. Shame on Kaplan, the SRA, and on those firms who made such cruel, hasty decisions. How utterly horrid.

Shame on you

Shame on those firms who rescinded TCs without a second thought. I hope those trainees jump ship once qualified to a more supportive firm.


We would love to know the outcome and firm name

Employment Enjoyer

Can anyone see a way that isn’t “we wrongly terminated your contract based on a breach which didn’t happen, please don’t drag us through the press and make us look terrible”?


It’s possible that some firms wouldn’t reinstate the contracts because they aren’t obliged to do so and the decision to rescind contracts was based on exam results released by Kaplan at the time. More, firms would already have hired new trainees who passed the SQE to fill the vacancies in the last two months.

The seriousness of the error must not be overlooked.

Information enjoyer

Why are they not obliged to reinstate? The breach that allowed them to pull the TC hasn’t happened


It did happen. It wasn’t their fault but it ‘happened’ at the relevant time. Now, because of the passage of time, it’s probably inequitable to force them to go back on it. Courts wouldn’t want to force a working relationship anyways. The only claim is against Kaplan/SRA.


Nope. I suppose it depends on the term of the contract, but if it’s says e.g. “in the event of failure of the SQE…” then there was no right to terminate. Whether a candidate failed or not is a question of fact. Being informed (wrongly) of failure is not the same as the fact of failure. The students didn’t fail and then later pass; they had passed all along, and so the right to terminate (again, assuming term is as above) never accrued.

Situation may (would?) be different had the contract said “in the event we are informed of the your failure of the exam, then…”. But I think that’s unlikely.

There may not be a one size fits all answer therefore. However I suspect the TC terms are boilerplate. Idk what they look like, I’m at the bar a solicitor and have never seen a TC offer.

Elite US litigator

With all due respect, your analysis is erroneous. As rightly pointed out by Diane, firms would have relied on the fact at the relevant time in support of the exercise of their termination right. In other words, there is no basis of asserting that the trainee contracts have been wrongly terminated by the firms. Kaplan / SRA are on the hook if one is to initiate claims for damages.

Archibald O'Pomposity

You’re a solicitor? Please God you’re not a contract lawyer. What a load of sophomoric nonsense.


I think it would work like this:

1. As others have said, the scope of the contractual right to terminate would need to be examined, but let’s assume for argument that the relevant term relied upon permits termination in the event a candidate failed the SQE.
2. As some others have said, no doubt the trainee would assert that the right to terminate had not arisen because the factual basis for the exercise of that right didn’t exist as we now know. The fact the right to terminate didn’t properly arise can most likely be established.
3. The next question is – what now? So the trainees hypothetical claim is presumably two fold – reinstatement/mandatory order or, damages in lieu with a normal compensation claim in the alternative (possibly but that has some difficulty in itself).
4. As has been alluded to, the difficulty with the reinstatement part isn’t insurmountable in practical terms but it may be that injunctive relief (which is ultimately how any practical non-money remedy is achieved) is not appropriate having regard to the circumstances of the firm, their change of position in reliance on Kaplan etc.
5. I’d be amazed if Kaplan weren’t brought in by either party as a Defendant through some form of contribution claim.
6. Kaplan’s liability would presumably be in negligent misstatement insofar as the firm and trainee are concerned, and also there would probably be scope for a contractual claim between trainee and Kaplan depending on whatever terms are in place.

The key point anyway is that whilst it would no doubt be pleaded and pursued, the order mandating reinstatement of TC does not invariably follow from proving that the right to terminate had not arisen. I suspect in terms that is what Drew is referring to. I don’t think anyone would say it’s impossible or not an argument open to the trainees.

Can if they want

Well, firms could apologise for not being one of those understanding firms in the first place. If they had allowed resits, they wouldn’t be in this mess.

Then they could see if the trainee can start their TC in the usual Sept or one after?

And then compensation for the inconvenience – say £10k so the trainee isn’t left out in the cold. Get some good travelling for £10k and tides then over for a bit..

Boris Godunov

Unfortunately £10k is probably the max they’d ever get, but to me it wouldn’t scratch the surface.

If someone offered me the choice of having a TC, or £10k and having to reapply then I would pick the TC every time.

Interestingly, what cash figure alternative do you think would make the deal ‘worth it’?


Even if you don’t account for the effort/stress of the situation and additional time it’ll take applying for a new TC, if you account for it to take an additional year to get another TC that is a minimum £30-40k+ obvious loss of earnings. You’ll also always be a year behind where you would otherwise have been in your career. But in reality it could be much longer, and it might never happen. Then we are talking £100,000s.

Let’s call it a flat £100k?

Archibald O'Pomposity

Nice try.



Grad Wreck

Graduate Recruitment Manager here – just want to express abject horror at the way this has been administered by Kaplan and the SRA. Nothing short of a fiasco from start to finish, compromising some candidates’ futures and putting firms in an extremely tough spot.

We didn’t rescind any TC offers, thankfully – I can only imagine the conversations my counterparts elsewhere are having. How are any of us supposed to have confidence in the SQE after all of this?

Archibald O'Pomposity

This is not really a big issue. Kaplan and the SRA are doing the best they can and are given far too much of a hard time.


Archibald is cringe

The shit takes are back


Maybe I’d be more forgiving if I weren’t paying them £5k for the privilege.

Grad Wreck

Yes! A measly £250 offered in compensation – surely affected candidates should be refunded in full?! The way candidates are being treated here is contemptible.


Archibald the ar*ehole is back. I’m almost convinced I work with this individual.

Archibald O'Pomposity

The comment about Kaplan doing the best they can was not made by me.


I don’t recall ‘they’re doing the best they can’ ever having been accepted by the SRA as a reason not to pursue some poor trainee or other through the SDT for sneezing the wrong way.

Rules for thee and not for me. If this is the best the SRA and Kaplan are capable of, it’s not good enough.

Trollslayer Pursuivent




Archibald O'Pomposity

“This is not really a big issue. Kaplan and the SRA are doing the best they can and are given far too much of a hard time.”

Very funny, troll. (This wasn’t me).


If I didn’t get the TC back I think should would drive me to become a mass murderer


Unfortunately, it wouldn’t shock me if some firms don’t take in all the TC offers holders they previously rejected. After all, there are still universities that don’t admit applicants whose A Level grades went up after an appeal.

Many big institutions are led by questionable people.


What a surprise that the SQE has been a failure thus far. Literally just altering the LPC would have been more effective, less costly, and less confusing for all relevant parties. The SRA has been awfully heavy-handed and maladroit (over the past few years, especially), and the law firms who have cancelled QWE/TC’s over SQE 1st time failures ought to be ashamed. It’s a new exam and qualification route, being administered by providers with no interest in the students and regulators who are utterly inept. Cut them some slack, goodness me. If anything, it’s very telling of the working culture at such firms (and what it’s telling you is to walk away).

Archibald O'Pomposity

Well there you have it, folks. Walk away. Kind of raises the question of why people apply to these cruel employers in the first place when there are perfectly good careers in the likes of M&S which pay over the National Minimum Wage.

Archibald O'Pomposity

Btw you should all know Im trolling


Should be some interesting “loss of future earnings” calculations here…


Is there an exemption clause in the agreement when you take the SQE?

Sue them?

Qualified solicitors here – Is there any way that someone who now has to delay their TC by a year because of this blunder (missing the sign up date) can bring a court claim for loss of TC Yr 1 income?


Just first years here mate

Elite law student

If someone has lost his TC as a consequence of Kaplan’s cock up the loss suffered shouldn’t be limited to year 1 income but should also include future loss of earnings as a matter of economic torts and restitutionary relief.

Washed up high street employment solicitor

Giz’ a fiver or pay for my meal deal and I’ll tell u m8


As with everything the UK try to roll out, it is a disaster. I have spent over 50k as a 32 mature student with undergrad and postgrad fees. 4k for 2 exams that are organised by a company that couldn’t run a bath. And yet if i want to become a solicitor i have to use this organisation. If this was a solely commercial entity, it would not be in business. Beyond laughable. I hope those students get compensated quite substantially for their sake and to act as a deterrent to Kaplan to stop producing such a shambles.


This country is a dismal failure in nearly every dimension.


This country and many things in this country now simply lack organisation and management. Gone are the glorious days when they ruled and led the world really. This country has become nothing but a laughing stock.


Yes, citizens of the world laugh up their sleeves at the globally-renowned and cared-for organisation the SRA, and its regulation of a niche profession! Hear people whisper of this from Bangkok to Baltimore!

Defund the SRA

We need a class action lawsuit against Kaplan and the SRA, hopefully that will put both of those two-hats out of business…

Clifford the big red ape Chance

I really hope it dents Clifford Chance’s future grad recruitment alongside consequences for the SRA and Kaplan.

Shameful Grad recruitment and grad recruitment partner. They’ve shown who is really the ‘lower quality’ out of them and the trainees they cancelled.

The cancelled grads need big compensation.

Clifford No Second Chances

bet CC grad rec are shitting bricks

MC associate

Pride really is the worst of all sins. If the SRA were to put their hands up and admit that they had made a catastrophic error in replacing the LPC with the SQE, it wouldn’t change the anguish and stress of the people affected by recent events – but it would clearly signal that they cared about the future of the profession. It’s pure arrogance to resolutely press on and to insist that the SQE is a brilliant idea which will be implemented regardless of the utter disdain in which it is held by lawyers and students.


There is no denying that Kaplan made a catastrophic mistake but that doesn’t mean the SQE in and of itself isn’t a suitable assessment for all aspiring solicitors.

Archibald is cringe

The SQE is trash

Archibald O'Pomposity

I think that level of nuance will be lost on this sophomoric crowd.

Lawyer Dan

I am wondering – Should any financial compensation be given to those who lost their training contracts? As otherwise they could have been on quite decent salaries otherwise before the rag got pulled from under their feet.

Archibald is cringe

Joking aside, I am starting to change my opinion of the SQE. Aside from some maladministration, the exam is tough but fair.

Concerned Citizen

They also don’t seem to have noticed yet that one of the FLK2 questions used out of date figures… Don’t want to be the one to tell them, lest there be yet another marking overhaul.

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