The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will introduce the super-exam, also known as the Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE), despite heavy criticism from the University of Law and BPP among others throughout the profession.
The change will come into effect from September 2020 and will render the current LPC redundant. The idea behind the super-exam hopes to ensure ‘all solicitors meet consistent, high standards for entry to the profession,’ according to the SRA.
The plan is to split the exam into two parts, as well as requiring work experience to grant students a vocational experience of the career that lies ahead of them.
The first stage would occur before a student did work experience and would add a practical, vocational element to a law degree. The second stage would take place after the work experience. Ms Brannan, the Education and Training director of the SRA stated that the work experience would be substantial, probably lasting 24 months, and a minimum of 18 months. Work experience would include time spent as a paralegal, at a law clinic, at a law firm placement, or at a number of employers.
To fully qualify as a solicitor, students will need to fulfil the following requirements.
- have passed SQE stages 1 and 2 to demonstrate they have the right knowledge and skills
- have been awarded a degree or an equivalent qualification, or have gained equivalent experience
- have completed at least two years of qualifying legal work experience
- be of satisfactory character and suitability.
A major talking point of this change concerns the cost of the SQE. At the present moment, the average cost for an individual to study the LPC lies around £11,550. However, it is expected that the SQE would be relatively cheaper than this, thus saving students quite a hefty amount, when taking into account that the LPC is no longer required.
Despite this cut to pricing, the response has been less than popular. In a survey presented to over 9,000 people, respondents were asked: ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed SQE is a robust and effective measure of competence?’‘, 60 percent of respondents disagreed, including over 80 per cent of academics and 70 per cent of law firms.
Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:
“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.”
“We all need to be able to trust that those who enter the profession are fit to practise. The current system cannot provide that confidence. The new SQE will provide assurance that all those who qualify, regardless of pathway or background, meet the consistently high standards we set on behalf of the public.”