Solicitors Qualifying Exam decision delayed amid criticism from legal educators

The final decision on whether to approve or reject plans for a new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) has been delayed by the Legal Services Board (LSB) following heavy criticism of the proposals by legal educators and the Law Society.

Once introduced, the SQE would replace the Legal Practice Course as a new ‘super exam’ that all prospective solicitors would have to pass in order to qualify. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has overseen the planned overhaul and applied to the LSB for approval of the new system on 12 January. The LSB had to approve or reject the proposal within 28 days of it being submitted, but the regulator has now agreed a 90-day extension period before making a decision, meaning that we should hear about the future of the SQE on 9 March.

The delay is linked to criticisms levelled by academics and the Law Society. The Law Gazette reports that the Association of Law Teachers (ALT) is concerned by the incomplete and untested nature of the ‘super exam’ plans. The ALT said that the profession is being asked to take a “leap of faith” on the new assessment framework when “the SQE has not yet been fully devised, never mind tested and independently evaluated. We do not yet know how it would be administered and run or exactly what format it would take.”

In addition, a joint letter sent by the ALT, the Committee of Heads of University Law Schools, the Society of Legal Scholars and the Socio-Legal Studies Association have questioned the SRA’s belief that neither a law degree or conversion course will be necessary to take the SQE. The academic bodies said that such an approach would not rigorously ensure that qualifying solicitors have the necessary high level of knowledge and skills, and that if introduced the new system would therefore “contrast with the position in virtually every country in the world.”

Concerned about the SQE? This guide sets out the pros and cons of pressing ahead to qualify through the old system, or waiting for the new exam to be introduced. 

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