City firms likely to require all trainees to take new ‘super exam’ from 2022

City solicitors have warned that firms may require all trainees joining from 2022 onwards to pass the new ‘super exam’, despite the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) indication that transitional arrangements allowing students to qualify through the old system may be in place until 2031.

All students who commence a law degree or conversion course in 2020 or later will have to qualify as solicitors in the new way – by passing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) that is set to be introduced by 2020. However, transitional arrangements will allow those who have started a law degree or GDL before 2020 to qualify through the old route.

The practice among City firms of recruiting trainees two or three years in advance means that trainees who start in 2022 or 2023 will have the choice of either taking the SQE or qualifying through the current system, depending on when they started their degree and whether or not it was a law degree. However, the City of London Law Society (CLLS) has said that running two routes to qualification within the same cohort of trainees is not practical for its member firms, so firms are likely to require all trainees starting from 2022 to qualify through the SQE, whether the old route is technically available or not.

Speaking to the Law Gazette, Hannah Kozlova Lindsey, chair of the CLLS training committee, said: “Running two different systems in a single intake is unlikely to be practical for law firms. Given a high percentage of training contracts is in the City of London, it will potentially have an impact on a significant number of trainees and firms. Based on the information we have so far on the SQE, there may be significant differences between how trainees are currently trained and will be under the new system. An example would be that, under the new system, trainees may be taking stage 2 of the SQE during the period of recognised training, potentially requiring them to take time out of the office to prepare for the examinations, while those who are qualifying under the current system tend to complete the major examinations before joining the firm.”

An SRA spokesperson said: “Our approach to transition aims to achieve a balance between moving promptly to a consistent high standard, while making sure people who have started the current training route are not left high and dry. We are also keen to make sure that we enable firms to respond to the change in a way that best suits their business. Our proposals are intended to provide some flexibility about how and when firms might wish to adjust their systems to reflect the SQE. We have had a helpful range of responses to our consultation. We will make a decision on the transitional arrangements later this year.”

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