In spite of considerable hostility from the profession and legal education providers, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced today (25 April) that its planned Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), dubbed ‘the super exam’, is going ahead.
The single, centrally-set examination will come in to use from September 2020, one year later than the SRA had originally planned to release it. This will replace the existing requirements for trainee solicitors to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) for non-law graduates.
According to the SRA, following two consultations on the proposals and significant resistance from the profession and training providers, the proposals will make sure that all solicitors meet consistent, high standards for entry to the profession.
An SRA statement released today said: ‘Multiple courses and examinations mean that neither the public nor law firms can have full confidence that qualifying solicitors are all meeting the same high standards. Almost four out of five members of the public say they would have more confidence in solicitors if they passed the same final examination.’
However, while the SRA-formulated plans have long received a negative reaction from law-training organisations and the legal profession, legal service consultant professor Nigel Savage has been a long-standing supporter of reforms. He said: ‘I’m delighted it’s going ahead, and the law schools should stop whinging now and embrace the challenge of making it work.
Savage added: ‘However my fear is that the legal services sector is changing so rapidly – ahead of legal education – if it’s put off any longer events will require another change. The traditional law schools will face big cultural challenges which are long overdue.’
The University of Law director of business development Kevin Griffiths 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.’
In January, the City of London Law Society (CLLS) also criticised new proposals from the SRA to create a ‘super-exam’. In particular, the CLLS objectsed to the multiple-choice nature of the assessment, feeling that such examination lacks the ability to test the full nuance of law knowledge.
However in October last year, despite the SRA reforms having been met with hostility by most educators, the School of Law at Manchester University has becomewas the first Russell Group school to embrace its reforms. The university found many of the changes it was looking to implement align with the SRA’s proposal to replace existing exams by making all prospective solicitors take the same assessment before qualifying.
This article first appeared on The Lex 100‘s sister publication, Legal Business.