Trainees will have to take a new final exam before they can qualify as solicitors, under plans being drawn up by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

104 institutions currently offer law degrees, said the SRA, and although some of them require top grades at A-Level, others accept candidates with Cs and Ds. There are also 33 GDL providers, 26 LPC providers and 2,000 firms offering training contracts, while apprenticeships and the paralegal shortcut mean people can now enter the profession without a degree or a training contract. As a result, the SRA said that there was increasing concern about "a lack of a common basis for assessing the quality of what a student has learnt",

The SRA's proposed solution is a new standardised exam to be taken by students just before they qualify, called the Solicitors Qualification Exam, or 'SQE'.

    Your guide to the new exam

The SRA has given very few clues as the syllabus for the exam, which would not be introduced until the 2017/18 academic year. It did say that the SQE would require trainees to demonstrate "a high level of legal knowledge and practice skills", equivalent at least to a graduate level, and that it would consist of two parts, one assessing knowledge and one assessing skills. It has opened a consultation which can be found here.

With students learning practical skills on the job which are assessed via the SQE, it could spell the end of the unloved LPC. Speaking to The Lawyer, SRA director of education and training Julie Brannan said the move, "could enable us to move away from the tripartite training we have at the moment".

But the chair of the Junior Lawyer's Division of the Law Society, Eversheds associate Leanne Maund, warned that the SQE could have a chilling effect on diversity in the profession. Speaking to RollOnFriday, Maund said that a replacement course for the LPC is likely to be necessary to prepare trainees for the SQE which could cost even more than the LPC. In particular, she was concerned about the unfairness on less affluent candidates, as there doesn't seem to be any plan to limit the number of resits an individual could choose to pay for. The JLD, she said, "do not believe this proposal will do much, if anything, to further social mobility".




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Anonymous 11 December 15 07:38

Abolish the need for academic qualifications for professional practice! Bring them back in! We pay the SRA's wages and this is what we get in return...

Anonymous 11 December 15 08:07

Or just trust that most firms will, generally, not hire dumbasses

Anonymous 11 December 15 08:10

This is similar to the system they have in pharmacy and to my mind makes more sense than the current system. There are so many 'back alleys' in to the profession that it is affecting standards. I am broadly in favour although you can rely on the SRA to make a hash of the implementation

Roll On Friday 11 December 15 08:44

And cue the outrage from people saying that this will cause discrimination in 3... 2... 1...

Anonymous 11 December 15 11:54

I'm a trade mark attorney. We (and our patent attorney "brethren") have to pass multiple examinations, during on the job training which can often take 3-4 years.

Seems like basic common sense from my perspective that a trainee solicitor should need to do more than avoid being sacked for two years to qualify. And no, I don't think the LPC covers this off.

Anonymous 11 December 15 13:23

Having the SQE makes little sense - surely there needs to be a filter on who enters the profession before you get to qualification? It's bad enough the number of LPC graduates who have wasted a small fortune on gaining a useless qualification with little or no hope of getting a training contract. To now have another potential hurdle (which undoubtedly will be something ridiculous) at the end means that it is likely that even more people will waste years of their lives and a lot of money with nothing to show for it.

Anonymous 11 December 15 13:56

To be fair Anonymous at 13.23, the wasted years of their lives with nothing to show for it are only starting at the LPC - its called private practice....

Anonymous 11 December 15 14:25

to the TMA @ 11:54, is that really relevant? You train for 3-4 years and do some exams before qualifying; solicitors effectively do the same. The only difference is that you get paid to work for all of your training period whereas solicitors are paying their own way as students for the first 2-4 years (i.e. LPC + CPE/PGDL/whatever it is now or law degree).

Anonymous 11 December 15 19:57

It is unfair to weed out at the end when they've spent time and money. Weed out at the start not the end. Also it's so much nicer to know all exams are finished and you then start your TC unlike accountants who have to do exams during training which is a huge strain and also unlike countries like Germany with a really difficult final exam a bit like this one that people have to special courses for.

If in doubt do now't might be sensible for the SRA to follow.

Anonymous 11 December 15 20:15

I'm all for diversity in the profession, but shouldn't competence come first? Shouldn't the unsuspecting public be able to trust they're retaining someone who has a clue? It would make far more sense to provide financial assistance to impoverished would-be trainees so they can take the course. (Not sure why the concern about "social mobility. Although I'd like to be Queen one day - any chance???)

Anonymous 13 December 15 17:04

Oh my goodness, the thought that trainees might have to prove they know how to do more than flirt and twirl their hair..?? How terribly unfair..!! People have been able to qualify at crappy little firms with zero quality assurance for years, it makes absolute sense for them to be a SQE and it should have happened years ago.

Anonymous 16 December 15 10:17

and guess what, 2 years into your training contract with your City firms, the SRA is going to expect you to answer questions on wills and probate, criminal litigation, property, commercial litigation and all those lovely subjects you currently never touch again. Sheer madness.

And the reason why we're all going through this - the regulators lost control of the examination process by allowing the institutions to self-mark. Hence the pass from Somewhere oop North of Nottingham Poly really not being the equivalent to one of the more rigorous institutions.

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