Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination (SQE) Gets Green Light

SRA announces the launch of the Super Exam for September 2020

Under plans announced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on 25th April 2017, the so-called Super Exam is set to become the future access to the solicitors' profession and will replace the current system, spelling the end of the GDL and LPC routes. The start date has been pushed back two years after the profession reacted adversely to the initial plans.

The new SQE has been the subject of two consultations, which attracted just 500 responses out of a potential 137,623 practising solicitors in 10,413 law firms in England & Wales (SRA statistics March 2017). At a press briefing in London on 25.04.17 the SRA spokesperson admitted that there had been 'resistance' from 'some organisations, including training providers'. Following criticism from The Law Society and others, the scheme has now been modified to require a degree or equivalent qualification as well as two years of work experience.

The SRA said the exam ‘will make sure all solicitors meet consistent, high standards for entry to the profession’. However it revealed that 60% of respondents to the second consultation either ‘strongly disagreed’ or ‘disagreed’ that the proposals would be an effective measure of competence. The SRA admitted that more needs to be done in order to get the proposals right. With this in mind, it has delayed the proposed start date from 2018/19 to 2020. A remaining major concern is the cost of the process.

Under the scheme, candidates take a two-part exam as well as undertaking work experience. To qualify as a solicitor, candidates will need to:

• 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.

The Law Society (TLS) said the SRA has come far from its initial proposition and has shown a willingness to listen. ‘The inclusion within the revised proposals of a degree-level qualification and two years' work-based training in all routes to entry is something the Law Society called for. That said, there is still more work to be done before the SQE can be considered "right".' Noting that the assessment provider for the SQE is yet to be appointed and the assessments are yet to be developed, TLS added: 'Just how the SRA will manage these concerns is yet to be seen.’

Tuesday, 25th April, 2017