In December 2015 the SRA published a consultation setting out proposals to introduce a common professional assessment for intending solicitors: the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
In December 2015 the SRA published a consultation setting out proposals to introduce a common professional assessment for intending solicitors: the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The SQE would comprise a series of centralised assessments of knowledge and skills and would replace the existing routes to qualifying as a solicitor. The JLD and the Law Society support centralised assessment in principle provided that the level is set appropriately and does not result in a dilution of standards, which will damage the standing of solicitors at home and abroad.
The consultation closed on 4 March 2016 but details of the proposals can be found on the SRA website
Overview of the JLD response
The JLD has significant concerns as to the lack of detail surrounding key elements of the SQE proposals. The SRA has correctly identified some of the issues with the existing system of solicitors qualification, in terms of the inconsistency of education and training, a perception of a “two tier” system, and arbitrary barriers to qualification that hinder social mobility, including both the cost of qualifying and recruitment trends. However, the JLD does not consider that the proposals in their current form address any of these issues, and could potentially exacerbate them.
The JLD is supportive, in theory, of a consistent centralised standard and recognises that there are limitations with the current system of education and training. However, the JLD feels that the consultation has “skipped a step” in that it is not seeking views on either of the other options set out in the consultation proposals (known as options 1 and 2) which were considered in addition to the SQE proposal (option 3) as a result of consultation on the Statement of Solicitor Competence . The JLD finds it incomprehensible that the SRA would propose the biggest reform to solicitor education and training for many years, yet have failed to properly consult and seek the views of stakeholders in respect of all possible options. The JLD appreciates that the consultation states that the options are not mutually exclusive; however in not actively seeking views on them it does signal that option 3 is potentially a forgone conclusion and risks discrediting the consultation process.
Local JLD groups
The JLD would like to thank the following local JLD groups for providing supporting statements of the JLD position regarding the SQE proposals:
- Bristol JLD
- Halifax & Huddersfield JLD
- Leeds JLD
- South London JLD
- Suffolk & North Essex JLD
- Nottinghamshire JLD