I’m unsure whether to do the LPC this year. I have no training contract in place but I do work in a mid-size regional solicitors firm as a legal secretary. Should I wait and do the SQE when it is introduced in 2020, although I’ve heard there may be delays in its introduction?
I obtained a 2:1 law degree in 2012 and have decent A-levels. I’d like a training contract with either a high street or a mid-size regional firm. I want to go into family/criminal law or maybe conveyancing.
If I were to do the LPC I would want to start in September and do it over two years so I can carry on working in my legal secretary job. Once I’ve finished the LPC I would look to move into either a solicitor/paralegal role.
Stage 1 of the SQE will involve exams I’ve already taken for my degree, so I don’t see the point in taking exams I have already done. I’m also aware that there will be no exemptions to stage 1 exams for those who already hold a law degree.
I know there is going to be a transition period where students can take the LPC for a number of years and qualify under the old system of getting a training contract. But I’m concerned about how many years this will last. It can take years to get a training contract and the last thing I want is to take the LPC and then in a few years’ time it becomes invalid. Do you have an idea as to how many years after the LPC is completed you can qualify as a solicitor under the old scheme?
I’ve recently contacted the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They could not provide me with any advice.
Answer: Adele Edwin-Lamerton, Solicitor & Chair - Junior Lawyers Division of The Law Society of England & Wales
Since you submitted your question, the Legal Services Board has granted first-stage approval of the SRA’s application to introduce the SQE. So it is now more likely that it will be in place by 2020.
The SRA said in its ‘Looking to the future: phase two of our Handbook reforms’ consultation that the cut-off date for qualification under the ‘old’ system would be 11 years after the introduction of the SQE.
It is impossible for anyone other than yourself to decide which action to take. You have not mentioned whether you have informed your current firm of your aspirations. They may be willing to support you to become a solicitor. At the very least, they may show some understanding if you do decide to embark on the LPC, as combining work and part-time study is very demanding.
You have not mentioned where you did your degree or if you have any legal work experience in addition to being a secretary. These are both important factors in obtaining a training contract. That applies regardless of whether you do the LPC or the SQE. You have also not specified A-level grades.
There are many unknown factors relating to the SQE. We still do not know how much the assessment will cost. While, in theory, it is possible to sit the assessment without having completed a programme of study, nobody can say if that is feasible. In order to ‘future proof’ yourself, focus on getting a training contract (which may not start until 2020). That way the firm can assist you with the educational requirements. Failing that, secure as much work experience as possible. This will strengthen your applications and may help you to qualify under equivalent means or the SQE.
Answer: Michael Bailey, manager, Sellick Partnership
As the SQE proposal has yet to be approved in full, there is still uncertainty as to how it will work in practice, so we cannot answer all of your queries. Our understanding is that the LSB gave initial approval to the scheme at the end of March but has said that a further application will need to be made for it to be implemented. This process could take some time and as September 2020 is the earliest the scheme can be implemented, this could potentially be pushed back even further. As it stands, the new proposal will allow anyone who wishes to take
the LPC route to do so as long as they complete the qualification by 2031 (but this date could be extended if the SQE launch is delayed further).
It is also unclear what the SQE will entail. Reports have suggested that it is unlikely it will require students to work in three different areas of law, something that many firms look for when taking on graduates. I therefore question how successful the SQE will be for most law firms and whether it will be widely accepted, especially when it is first introduced. The market has grown to respect and acknowledge the LPC route, and its longstanding reputation will be hard to emulate.
I would say you may be better off continuing with an LPC. I understand your concerns regarding a training contract, but you have time to find one. Can your current firm help you with this? If you are already working with them and express your interest to qualify they may be able to offer you a contract, or point you in the direction of where you may find one. You could secure your training contract while studying your LPC. This would ease your concerns about not completing within the specified timeframe.
It might be worth speaking with legal professionals at your firm to get an idea of how long they took to complete the LPC and gain a contract. I imagine you could complete your training well before 2031, but of course each individual is different.
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