This week, the Solicitors Regulation Authority released a consultation in relation to its proposals to reform the current routes to qualification as a solicitor.
The proposals involve removing the requirements for a qualifying law degree (or GDL), LPC and period of recognised training, and replacing them with a series of centralised assessments set by the SRA, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). A copy of the consultation can be found here.
The JLD has, for a long time now, been pursuing and supporting ways to remove barriers to social mobility and increase access to the profession whilst still maintaining the high standards of solicitors in England and Wales. This includes our support and promotion of the Equivalent Means route to qualification and the JLD initiative for a recommended minimum salary for trainee solicitors which was introduced by the Law Society this year. As such we would support changes to the current system of qualification which further these aims.
We are pleased to see that the issue we have raised on numerous occasions as to the importance of including a practical element (such as a period of recognised training) has been taken on board, as the SRA have said that they are likely to continue to require an element of pre-qualification work experience. We look forward to a further consultation on what the pre-qualification work experience would involve. However, the JLD continues to have serious concerns about this proposal. We wrote an open letter to the SRA on 2 November 2015 expressing our initial view. The nature of our concerns are:
- The new system is unlikely to alter law firms’ perception of certain universities.
- The SRA have not explained how much the exam fees would be, or suggested how this could be funded.
- In the absence of the LPC, it is likely that a new course will be created to help students pass the SQE, for which there may not be funding available and, when added to the exam fees, could lead to even greater cost than current routes to qualification. As such, those who can afford the course will have an advantage over those who cannot.
- Without the requirement for a qualifying law degree (or equivalent), the credibility of solicitors in England and Wales could be undermined.
As such, the JLD believes that, contrary to the arguments put forward by the SRA, the proposal will do little, if anything, to further social mobility. The Law Society and the JLD share this concern and are in agreement in our initial reactions to this consultation. The Law Society’s press release can be found here.
The JLD will be reviewing this consultation in full and with input from local JLD groups via the JLD National Committee. We will submit a response on behalf of our members in due course. If you’d like to share your views with us, please email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Chair, Junior Lawyers Division of The Law Society
10 December 2015