The Solicitors Regulation Authority says it will pause and rethink its ambitions to create a central ‘super-exam’, in response to a backlash against its proposals.
Paul Philip, the chief executive of the SRA, also said the regulator would maintain its commitment to a minimum period of workplace training. Previously the SRA suggested this could be abolished.
The SRA received almost 250 responses to a consultation on the scheme to introduce a central exam to be taken by all would-be solicitors, with 200 respondents raising minor or serious concerns about the proposal.
Philip said the regulator would take a ‘hiatus’ to make sure the proposals are the right way forward.
He said: ‘We are going to pause and consider all the consultation responses to make sure people feel they are being heard and that their views are being properly considered. We are not going to plough on unless we think it is the right thing to do.’
In its consultation the SRA said that, although it is likely that some form of work-based training will still be required before qualification, it would consider whether the approach remains appropriate. It suggested it could specify the outcome rather than a minimum period.
This suggestion prompted alarm amongst lawyers, with both the Law Society and the City of London Law Society warning against the proposals. The Law Society said it strongly supports centralised assessment – provided that the level is set appropriately and does not result in a dilution of standards.
Philip yesterday announced that there will be ‘something that looks like a training contract’, which he said would be in the workplace and assessed.
He said: ‘We will need to talk about the length. My gut feeling is that it will be something like [two years] rather than a couple of months. It’s really important people get the opportunity to practise the skills.’
He also stressed that maintaining high professional standards is paramount, and said that qualification and assessment would be at least degree level.
Philip said the SRA will consult again on the plans later this year.