A proposed new exam, entitled the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), will reduce the average cost of a legal qualification by around £12,000, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has said.
The SQE will be split into two stages – the first consisting of “computer-based, objective-testing” questions, and the second including an assessment of the skills of client interviewing, advocacy, case analysis, legal research and legal drafting.
Unveiled earlier this week, the SRA said training solicitors will need to have a degree or equivalent qualification, and have undertaken a substantial period of workplace learning before being able to pass the SQE.
This will include experience in a student law clinic, a sandwich degree placement, working as a paralegal, or under a formal training contract.
The SRA added that there would no longer be a requirement to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC), removing “an average of £12,000” from the cost of the qualification.
They also said that the cost of preparing for the SQE – via one of the prescribed methods – was unlikely to be “greater or equivalent” to that sum.
The authority is currently consulting on whether a candidate should require two years or 18 months’ worth of experience in the sector before undertaking the exam.
The SQE was proposed to introduce conformity to the sector, but has since faced opposition from universities and law schools across the country, which believe that the SQE will actually increase costs for students.
Crispin Passmore, executive director at the SRA, said: “Different universities and institutions are teaching the law degree and LPC differently.
“Given this increasing variety and flexibility, can we really be confident that everyone who qualifies meets the robust standards that we and the public expect? I don’t think we can be. Something has to change.
“The only way it will be more expensive would be if everyone does what they do now and adds on the SQE,” he said.
“The new approach allows people not to do the LPC. It is a much more cost-effective form of training. It will be good for students, good for firms and good for legal services, and good for diversity.”