The Solicitors Regulation Authority today stated that it will go ahead with its new 'super-exam', the Solicitors Qualification Examination, from 2020, despite criticism from within the profession as a whole.
The new examination will render the old pathway of the LPC completely redundant, whilst also menaing that the GDL becomes non-compulsory. The only requisite way to become a solicitor will be through a regulated, standardised test procedure which will compromise both theoretical and practical assessment.
Julie Brannan, director of education and training at the SRA, said: “I was struck by how much people care about this and it is to the credit of universities and the profession that they do. We want to work collaboratively with them to get this right.”
Ultimately, however, she highlighted that the criticism was fair but that popularity was not what the regulator was aiming for. Instead, she offered, that ultimately the new scheme “unlocks choice in routes to qualification. It enables apprenticeships, allows universities to develop courses that work for students and solves the training contract bottleneck.”
Under the new regulations, to qualify as a solicitor, a candidate will need to pass both Stages 1 & 2 of the new SQE examination (theory and practical); have completed at least 24 months of relevant legal work experience; have been awarded a degree or an equivalent qualification, and meet the personality requirements set out in the Statement of Solicitor Competence.
Professor Andrea Nollent, Vice Chancellor & CEO at The University of Law, said: “This is an exciting time for legal education. These reforms are a unique opportunity for innovation and improvement to legal training. Our mission at The University of Law is to provide the highest quality training to all who want to become lawyers. With these reforms, as well as the changes to apprenticeships, there will be new ways for us to structure our courses to give enhanced legal and skills training to raise standards for solicitors to new levels, and to widen access to the profession.
“Whilst we welcome the degree of extra clarity this announcement brings, there are still important details outstanding. In particular, we look forward to the SRA providing more specifics of the SQE syllabus and assessment methods. These will be fundamental to developing new courses that fit the needs of employers and students, and we encourage the SRA to give more information as soon as possible.”
Kevin Griffiths, the University of Law’s Director of Business Development & Planning, added: “It is good news for both employers and students that the start date for the SQE has been put back to 2020 at the earliest, as this is much less disruptive to recruitment cycles and gives time to plan. We look forward to engaging with both law firms and students over the next few months with a commitment to setting the standard for solicitor training for years to come.”
For more information about the SQE and the new training framework, why not take a look at our SQE section on the website?