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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