The Solicitors Regulation Authority has asked organisations pitching to train the UK’s lawyers to provide evidence of a credit rating which it is effectively impossible for them to obtain.
Earlier this year the SRA overruled objections from lawyers and pushed ahead with its plans for the SQE, a standardised exam for new solicitors which will replace the LPC and GDL. In its tender documents for organisations wishing to provide training for the SQE, under the heading of “Financial Standing”, it asks: “Can you provide a credit rating issued by Standards & Poor's indicating an AAA as the Baseline Credit Rating (or Dun and Bradstreet equivalent)? If yes, please attach your response".
The response is likely to be, “No. PS you cannot find your arse with both hands”. Neither of the companies which own the University of Law and BPP University, the two largest legal education providers, hold AAA ratings. ULaw’s parent company scores A- and BPP’s scores a B-. But even the UK government falls short. Last year it was downgraded from AAA to AA (with negative outlook).
In fact, the only private non-financial companies with AAA ratings in the entire world are Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson. The others are state-controlled businesses in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. Given that Johnsons' talcum powder is made of cancer, it means that Windows 10 is now the SRA's front runner to train the next generation of lawyers.
|Clippy was a f**ker, but his financials were tiptop.
The SRA’s demand that Standard & Poor's provide the credit rating is even more unrealistic, because nothing can obtain a rating from Standard & Poor's. Its parent company, McGraw Hill, changed its name to S&P Global in February 2016.
Rather than confess to sloppy work, a spokesman for the SRA said, “The financial stability of the assessment organisation we eventually contract with is critically important for the SQE"*. He said, "Stakeholders would expect us to have robust requirements"** and vowed, "We will scrutinise the credit rating of the bidding organisations carefully as part of our evaluation of their financial standing". He added, "We have been talking to potential bidders to make sure they are clear exactly what we are looking for in this area”***. The cock-up will probably not convince SQE's critics that the SRA has total mastery of its flagship, once-in-a-generation project to remake the profession.
Pressed by RollOnFriday to admit to the balls-up, he said, "We think it is right that we aspire to the highest standards", adding mysteriously, "we are not in a position to share further detail on this at this stage". Get ready for Clippy.
*though not so critically important that it got any of it right.
**so robust that they are impossible to achieve!
***a rating higher than God from a body that doesn't exist.