A brief look at the proposed SQEs and the alternative route to qualification to be introduced by the SRA, and what does this mean for prospective future lawyers and the profession.
Following on from my previous blog entry examining the routes to qualification, this entry will focus on the proposed Solicitors Qualifying Examination or SQEs. The SQE are due to be introduced in 2019 as the new standardised route whereby graduates and their equivalents (such as those in apprenticeships) with the required workplace training of at least 2 years and meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements are able to attempt the new two stage assessment.
The goals of the SRA in introducing the SQE were primarily to address the concerns of the current traditional method of qualification of LPC completion and the obtaining of a training a contract. The SRA has found the rising costs of qualification, in particular the varying pass rates of the LPC along with price being used as a proxy for quality. The SRA also aims to eliminate the gamble that is associated with the LPC, where training contracts remain a possibility as opposed to a certainty. Another primary concern that the SRA has sought to tackle with the introduction of the SQE is to introduce a same standard from which all future solicitors have fulfilled, which it argues will set a high standard for the profession.
Despite all the problems that the SQEs aims to address, there are immediately concerns which have been shared, amongst those is the concern that the profession will be flooded with qualified solicitors, who having met the pre-requisites and passed the SQEs are now expected to be able to preform to the same degree as those who have qualified under the traditional training contract route (Under the supervision of experienced practitioners) Though the SQE does aim to address this via its second stage legal practice assessment, does a case study where the candidate advises under a mock scenario equate to the same professionalism needed where real lives are concerned.
Another concern is the experimental nature of the SQEs, and whether the gamble of the SQE is ultimately the same as the gamble of completing a costly LPC and applications for a training contract. It will almost be certain that the SQEs will not be cheap, nor will any prospective candidate undertake them without any small amount of academic preparation!
Ultimately the SQEs are an exciting direction from which non-qualified persons such as me will be the first to experience. Coming from a non-law first degree graduate, they certainly offer a step to qualification which would not be as inclusive had the traditional method of qualification remained so. Only time will tell whether the SQEs are able to benefit both the profession and those who seek to enter it.