SQE-you-later: Will the recent exam blunder deter future lawyers?

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By Dara Antova on


Law student Dara Antova gives her verdict on the Kaplan marking debacle

It’s officially been over a month since the most recent episode of “Law and Disorder” aired. Candidates are still reeling from it, and the consequences are definitely evident.

One hundred and seventy-five out of 6,626 candidates were mistakenly told they had failed the first set of Solicitors Qualifying Exams (SQE1). What is even more troubling is how this mistake was uncovered. It wasn’t through Kaplan’s internal efficiency checks or through detailed analysis before announcing the results. Instead, the error was only discovered because the affected students appealed their results. This revelation has sparked a debate about the quality of the current examination system and whether enough safeguards are in place to prevent such oversights and protect future lawyers.

While it is appreciated by many that Solicitors Regulation Authority’s chief executive, Paul Philip, has expressed his disappointment and acknowledged the seriousness of this mistake, it doesn’t change the fact that for some students, it resulted in their training contract (TC) offers being revoked.

After working diligently in an already highly competitive industry, where the demand for working as a lawyer often exceeds available positions, this setback is particularly disheartening. Not to mention the additional slap in the face of the goodwill payment of £250, which seems inadequate and does little to address the significant impact on the candidates; no amount of money can adequately address the situation, especially considering that covers just a fraction over one-eighth of the total fees required to complete SQE1.

The City of London Law Society’s training committee shed light on a sobering reality, saying: “Some have chosen to abandon their prospective legal career“. This statement resonates deeply, as many aspiring lawyers are witnessing first-hand the actions of firms that have swiftly rescinded TC offers. The allure of the TC’s glossy packaging, perks, and pay-packet no longer masks the stark truth: firms have revealed their priorities, and the well-being of their employees didn’t make the cut. I get it; it’s a grim truth that no aspiring lawyer wants to face, and it’s definitely causing many to reconsider this lauded career path.

With fees set to rise in September even with the marking blunder, can we really have much faith in the SQE administrators? As unpleasant as the situation is, we must remember, in the interest of balance, that this exam is relatively new, and it’s normal to encounter challenges initially. However, given the expectations placed on future lawyers to be trustworthy and reliable, it’s only fair to expect the same level of commitment from those administering the exams.

Just imagine the frustration of pouring your heart and soul into an exam only to be told you didn’t make the cut, only to later discover it was an error. By then, it may be too late to sign up for SQE2, leaving you unable to qualify that year. As a result, you might find yourself grappling with the overwhelming sense of loss and disappointment. Does that sound dramatic to you?

How can this ever be rectified? Candidates are now left to navigate this ordeal, and I fear the true extent of the consequences may never be fully known. So many have been deterred from pursuing their dreams, and the impact of this debacle is far-reaching.

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As a future lawyer, I found myself heartbroken over the news, imagining I was in the shoes of those candidates. Witnessing the fallout and reading about the consequences on the internet, with future lawyers expressing their lack of mental strength, willpower, and energy to continue, made me question my own career path—as did many others. And for those who have been completely deterred from pursuing a career as a solicitor, I don’t blame you!

Speaking at the time, Kaplan’s director of qualifications, Zoe Robinson, said: “We are committed to putting this right for candidates, and sincerely regret and apologise for the impact this has had for those affected.” In addition to the goodwill payment, Robinson acknowledged that students who received incorrect results might have suffered direct losses and encouraged those affected to come forward.

At the end of the day, some incredible would-be lawyers may have been lost to the profession due to this blunder. The best we can hope for now is to ensure something like this never happens again. I appreciate that Kaplan is working on it, however, it doesn’t make the current situation any easier to bear.

From my perspective, the SQE seemed like a promising concept in theory. However, its implementation has fallen significantly short of its intended purpose. Despite aiming for inclusivity and accessibility, it has achieved the opposite effect. This discrepancy between theory and reality raises significant concerns about the effectiveness and fairness of the SQE examination system. The disparity between the lofty goals set forth by the SQE and the harsh realities faced by candidates highlights a fundamental flaw in the system. It’s imperative that those in positions of authority acknowledge the gravity of the situation and take meaningful steps to address the damage done. The trust and confidence of aspiring lawyers and the integrity of the legal profession are at stake, and swift action is needed to restore both.

Dara Antova is a final-year law student at Goldsmiths, University of London and is aspiring to qualify as a solicitor in the corporate/commercial sector. Outside of the law, she’s passionate about weight training and travelling.



Great article , sentiment among law students isn’t great at the moment- certain grad rec teams has been getting grilled hard at outreach stuff I’ve attended.

Given so many were still eligible for the LPC (which has better pass rates and more robust support structures in place from course providers) , it seems evident that firms in the last SQE1 cycle debacle don’t seem that interested in genuinely cultivating candidates as opposed to throwing 2.1 bodies at the meat grinder in the hopes enough survive to fill seats.

Dara Antova

Thank you very much!

The industry is certainly facing complex issues at the moment, and it’s too early to predict what will happen next.

It’s interesting that graduate recruitment is taking some heat, all firms will need to consider carefully!

Charlie Brown

Love this article!

Deed U No

I told you so !
… but they never listen.


It’s not just the SQE but also QWE as you can see from the other article today. The whole system is not being rolled out properly and is damaging people’s careers.

Horrible exam

Thought I would be doing the lpc, forced last minute to do the sqe and basically had no choice. If I had a choice I would not do it. Mentally took a toll on me. It’s not even the difficulty of the exam. I can’t even trust the marking f up. So many people getting 0s on sqe2 for no reason – probably a marking error. Our whole future resides on this and they just don’t care.

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