Fresh uncertainty hangs over the plan to replace the LPC with a new centrally set examination for would-be solicitors, following the umbrella regulator’s announcement that it has further postponed a decision on whether to approve the change.
The Legal Services Board announced last Thursday – a day before its previous deadline – that it would make a decision on or before 12 April. This followed warnings that the new route to qualification, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), could damage the international standing of the legal profession.
This latest development casts doubt on the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s plan to introduce the SQE by 2020. The LSB has already delayed a decision once, in February, after the Law Society and legal educators raised concerns.
An SRA spokesperson declined to comment on whether the 2020 roll- out date would be pushed back but said: ‘It’s a significant change and we have spent several years working with the profession and others on the proposals, so of course it needs time for proper review.’
The latest delay followed a warning by the City of London Law Society (CLLS), which represents around 17,000 solicitors, that the proposal would move England and Wales ‘further away from the requirements seen in other well-respected jurisdictions without demonstrable compensatory benefits’.
It added that abolishing the requirement to have a law degree or equivalent could ‘impact the reputation and pre-eminent standing of the England and Wales legal profession’. The CLLS said that, particularly in the context of Brexit, it would ‘not want to open the door to any suggestion that the solicitor qualification falls short of EU standards’.
Hannah Kozlova Lindsay, chair of the CLLS training committee, said the society’s concerns relate to ‘a variety of aspects’ including abolition of the requirement to have a degree.