Author: Chris Proctor
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has announced plans to replace the LPC (Legal Practice Course) and GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) with a new route to qualification, the SQE (Solicitors Qualification Examination), which has been dubbed the solicitor ‘super exam’.
Reception to the change, due to commence in 2020, has been mixed. In response to the consultation question “To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed SQE is a robust and effective measure of competence?”60 per cent of respondents disagreed.
Despite notable criticism from academics, Julie Brannan, director of education and training at the SRA argues that the new scheme will help to eliminate the current ‘LPC gamble’, whereby many students will spend up to £15,000 completing the legal practice course, with no guarantee of a training contract at a law firm at the end of it.
One question on the minds of many aspiring lawyers will be whether the SQE will be actually cheaper than the current cost of qualification. As of yet, it is unclear how much the new scheme will cost to undertake. Helen Hudson of Nottingham Law School commented: “The SRA has produced no evidence that the SQE will reduce the cost of qualification for students and no indication of how much students will have to pay to sit the SQE.”
Nonetheless, some students have praised the change. They argue that it will make the profession more accessible, and less determined by the depth of a student’s pockets. Some have been quick to point out that in their opinion, it is not surprising that providers of the LPC and GDL, who have long profited from high rates of enrolment (despite having knowledge that some of these graduates are unlikely to secure training contracts) are opposed to the changes.
Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, commented: “views on the SQE are wide ranging. The depth of feedback has been invaluable in helping us shape our proposals. We want that to continue. By working closely with everyone we will create a modern, world-class assessment.”
Further detail is awaited with anticipation.