Owais Anjum is a paralegal at Deo Volente Solicitors
As it currently stands, aspiring solicitors are required to complete the LPC. The ‘Legal Practice Course’ or LPC is a one year full-time or two year part-time course designed to bridge academic study and training in a law firm. In order to start the course, one must have completed a Law Degree or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course. Once the LPC has been completed, a twenty-four month period of recognised training must be completed in order to qualify.
However, on the 7th December 2015, the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) opened a consultation on the proposal of a Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). This exam would see new solicitors take a final, competency-based exam before they qualify. In order to qualify, everyone intending to become a solicitor, regardless of the type of training they have done, would have to take this exam.
Understandably, this created various levels of confusion among aspiring solicitors. Especially as, at the time, these changes were expected to come into force in the 2018/2019 academic year.
After receiving widespread criticism from academics and professionals alike and a rising demand for further details from the legal profession as a whole, the SRA opened a second consultation on 3rd October 2016.
The second consultation made clear that the SRA’s proposal consists of two main parts. The first part is a two-stage SQE. The first stage of the SQE will test candidate’s ability to use and apply legal knowledge. This stage will consist of six ‘Functioning Legal Knowledge Assessments’ and one ‘Practical Legal Skills Assessment.’ The second stage will be taken at the point of qualification and will test legal skills. This stage will consist of five ‘Practical Legal Skills Assessments’ taken in two practice contexts of the candidates choice resulting in a total of ten assessments.
The second part of the previously mentioned proposal will contain higher flexibility in regard to the twenty-four month period of recognised training. As it currently stands, the most accepted form of recognised training is a formal training contract. However, the proposal suggests aspiring solicitors could also complete this period of recognised training by working as ‘an apprentice or paralegal’, ‘through working in a student law clinic’ and ‘through a placement as part of a sandwich degree.’ It is also worth mentioning that aspiring solicitors will no longer strictly require a law degree as the SQE can be taken with a ‘degree or equivalent.’
Going forward, the LPC is set to disappear as the SRA have now announced the SQE will come into force some time in 2020. Post-2020 the method of qualifying as a solicitor will be set out as follows:
- Obtain a Degree or Equivalent Qualification
- Pass SQE Stage 1 and Stage 2
- Obtain 24 months qualifying legal work experience
- Be of satisfactory character and suitability