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Solicitors Qualification Exam: The Right Answer?

9th March 2020

The Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) has been in news on a regular basis.  Reported in the Law Gazette on 26th February 2020 (https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/childs-play-unprepared-15-year-old-scores-half-marks-in-super-exam/5103230.article) a 15-year-old managed to achieve almost 50% (48%) after spending 30 minutes on the initial section of the proposed SQE. This is despite having done no preparation and no knowledge of the law.

It is concerning to hear a report that such a mark could be achieved within a short period of time by someone aged 15 and yet to sit their GCSEs. Further, it must not be forgotten that the SQE, designed to replace the LPC and GDL, and so is still a post-graduate level course meaning individuals will have already achieved an undergraduate degree or a degree level apprenticeship. The mark achieved by the 15-year-old was in answering questions on ‘functioning legal knowledge’.

Of course, this is only one case. The pass mark was not achieved and despite the suggested September 2021 start date the SQE is yet to be introduced formally. The practice paper was multiple choice which has an element of luck.  However, it does not fill the legal profession or the public with confidence about the potential drop in professional standards the SQE could bring.

Our very own Joshua Bold who is a Newly Qualified since October 2019 gives his insight having taken the traditional route into the profession.

“My overriding feeling having completed the whole process was one of that I had just been through an educational marathon to reach my goal which pushed me both mentally and emotionally. It was particularly tough having to balance; working full time as a trainee solicitor, studying the LPC part-time, researching & writing my Masters’ dissertation, preparing and revising for the LPC exams, attend the mandatory Professional Skills Courses including preparation and exams for an additional Higher Rights qualification.

The list I gave you above has some variables and work unnecessary to undertake in order to achieve the end goal and so I made it harder on myself with the volume of work. For example, the decision to study the LPC part-time whilst working full-time under a training contract, the decision to add in the masters’ element and the decision to obtain additional qualifications. However, these are options the current model provides you. I feel what I have described above as an ‘educational marathon’ was obtained through the current qualification route that tested me in a variety of ways.

I seek no sympathy or high praise for the above but I feel this has put me in a good position to maintain the level of professional standards expected of us by our Regulator and subsequently provide a good service to clients and the public.

I am not sure the proposed SQE model gives the opportunity or the incentive to do the same.”

With this in mind is abolition of the LPC and the introduction of SQE the right answer? The LPC is outdated in a number of areas, most notably the cost of the course, but the model provides a good understanding of the profession you are entering into and that should not be removed for a quicker or easier route into the profession.

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