MPs and City law firms call on regulator to reject or delay Solicitors Qualifying Exam

updated on 21 March 2018

Calls to reject proposals for a new ‘super exam’ for qualifying solicitors have increased in intensity to put the Legal Services Board (LSB) under unprecedented pressure as it considers its final decision.

The groups opposed to the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) include City law firms, lecturers and the Law Society. They have now been joined by MPs on the justice select committee, which has asked the LSB to delay its decision on whether to approve the SQE by six months. As Legal Futures reports, the chair of the committee, Bob Neill MP, has warned of the dangers of causing upheaval in the legal profession during the Brexit process. Neill wrote to the LSB to emphasise “the need to avoid any possible new reputational risk to the legal profession at this critical time,” and highlighted “fears that the SQE framework in its current form would lead to England and Wales becoming the only jurisdiction that does not require substantive academic study of law as a precursor to qualifying as a lawyer”.

Meanwhile, the City of London Law Society (CLLS), which represents the interests of powerful City firms, has continued to attack the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) ‘super exam’ plans, which the CLLS said have “neither demonstrated that the current system is so flawed it needs a complete overhaul nor that the new framework is superior”. The CLLS said it was a considerable risk on the part of the SRA “to embark on a qualification framework which has no parallel elsewhere and moves us further away from the requirements seen in other well-respected jurisdictions without demonstrative compensatory benefits […] We know of no other regulator in the UK or elsewhere reducing the practical relevance of the training and education which it is assessing as part of a proposed qualification. As such the SQE represents a step back and a missed opportunity to future-proof the profession”.

The SQE proposals have also fallen foul of Welsh language speakers because the proposals fail to guarantee that Welsh solicitors will be able to take the assessment in Welsh-language format.