City lawyers have mooted the idea of requiring some prospective solicitors to get a ‘City specific’ background by embarking on ‘LPC or GDL equivalents’ on top of the proposed new ‘super-exam’.
The proposal is among several questions put to City firms in a toolkit created by the training committee at the City of London Law Society (CLLS) designed to help firms prepare for the proposed Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
The committee has asked whether firms want to provide a GDL or LPC ‘electives equivalent’ for trainees with a non-law background and whether they would be open to creating a ‘consortium’ to procure any qualification. It also asked firms if they want to offer ‘prep’ courses to prepare for SQE 1 and SQE 2 and whether they will require trainees to pay for it.
The move could fuel speculation that the SQE – a two-part exam due to be rolled out in 2020 – could lead to a ‘two-tier’ profession. The Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division has already warned that the profession could be split between those who have taken SQE preparatory courses and those who have not.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the SRA, the CLLS has reiterated its concern over training periods.
Under SQE, a 'period of recognised training’ would replace the current two-year training programme. The SRA has said this can instead be taken at any time and potentially before either stage of the exam is passed.
The CLLS reiterated that it will need flexibility allowing its member firms to decide when their trainees/prospective trainees take the second stage of the exam. It warned that including a requirement about when stage 2 is taken would 'significantly complicate’ the training process.
It said: 'Limiting that flexibility will cause very practical business difficulties for us and could negatively impact the experience of our trainees. We understand that a decision has already been made that students will have to pass SQE stage 1 before they can sit SQE stage 2. However, we think it is important that, beyond this requirement, flexibility is maintained.’
Hannah Kozlova Lindsay (pictured), chair of the CLLS training committee, said it produced the toolkit as 'a practical guide to aid planning and to ensure that City firms are well prepared for the SQE’.
Edward Sparrow, chair of City of London Law Society, said: ‘These changes to qualification routes for solicitors are the most significant we have seen for 40-50 years – and are just a starting point for further change.’