Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE)
The SRA has just launched its second consultation on the introduction of a new centralised approach and consistent assessment of trainee solicitors. It follows the announcement over the summer that its decision on a new approach would be deferred until Spring 2017, so the earliest start date for SQE would be the 2019/20 academic year.
The second consultation gives a more detailed picture about how the SRA anticipates solicitors in the future may qualify and how the SQE might look, including details of what the SRA proposes to assess at each stage of the SQE and the SRA’s overall requirements for qualifying as a solicitor.
It will require education to degree level (or equivalent), together with a substantial period of workplace training, passing the SQE and meeting the SRA’s character and suitability requirements. The SQE itself will be independently set and will be ‘rigorous, fair, transparent and consistent’. The SRA anticipates it will make use of modern technology (presumably similar to the LNAT, which many universities require applicants to take before accepting them on undergraduate law courses).
It proposes widening the opportunities to obtain work-based experience, which it hopes will address the ‘training contract bottle-neck’ as well as the potential debt issues facing prospective entrants to the legal profession (the ‘LPC gamble’). The SRA believes the changes should make qualifying more affordable and flexible, which should encourage wider access to the profession, while the detail on the proposals in the second consultation aims to ally concerns about the standing and quality of the profession being maintained.