Second consultation on the SQE gets under way
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has launched its latest consultation on a new single assessment for would-be solicitors – the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
Currently, solicitors can qualify through a large number of providers and in a number of ways, and yet there is no consistent benchmark. Under the proposed changes, anyone wishing to be a solicitor would have to undergo the same independently-set professional assessment before qualifying.
This second consultation provides a detailed view of what the SQE might look like. It proposes a substantial, rigorous set of assessments, covering knowledge of the law and legal processes, legal thinking, drafting, writing, presenting, negotiating, arguing a case and analysing claims and transactions. The consultation also offers a fuller a picture of how all the requirements for qualification come together.
Under the proposed new system, candidates would be required to have a substantial period of workplace training. This could include experience in a student law clinic, a sandwich degree placement, working as a paralegal, or under a formal training contract.
Intending solicitors would also be required to have a degree or equivalent qualification. The SRA wants to promote fairer access to the profession for people from all backgrounds by making sure there are consistent standards, costs are kept down, and that there are a variety of routes to qualification.
The SRA believes introducing the SQE would underpin the reputation of solicitors and protect the interests of clients. Independent polling shows that nearly four in five adults (79%) said they believe everyone should pass the same final exam to become a solicitor. A similar proportion (76%) said that they would have more confidence in solicitors if they all passed the same final exam.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “We think there is a strong case for the SQE and this consultation spells it out in more detail. We have taken on board a wide range of views and gathered more evidence, and I would like to thank the many organisations that have helped us to refine and develop our proposals.
“Ultimately, we want to make sure that the solicitors of the future have the high standards and skills needed to compete both domestically and in a global market. And we know that, internationally, an entrance examination is common practice in other major jurisdictions, from New York to New Zealand. We believe the SQE will enable us to be sure that all solicitors have the competences required to do the job.
“I would encourage everyone to let us have their views about the proposals set out in the consultation and to take the opportunity to influence the future qualification requirements for solicitors.”
At the same time as publishing its latest consultation on the SQE, the SRA is publishing a summary and analysis of responses from the first consultation, together with copies of the individual responses it received.
The consultation runs until 9 January 2017 and can be found online at: www.sra.org.uk/consultations