Postponing exams until the autumn is ‘unworkable’, junior lawyers have said, urging the Solicitors Regulation Authority to rethink its ban on online assessments.
In an open letter to Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, the Junior Lawyers Division said delays to Legal Practice Course (LPC) exams would have ‘serious implications for those with training contracts due to commence in September 2020. Namely it will be a heavy burden for those that have to sit exams alongside work’. It added that trainees may be forced to make long journeys to sit the exams and are not guaranteed study leave from their employer.
Charlotte Parkinson, chair of the JLD, said there is ‘no known timescale for this virus’ so there is no guarantee social distancing will even be lifted by the autumn. ‘Subsequent delays may mean the student is not actually able to sit the exams until 2021 or later. This is unacceptable.’ She said it is ‘imperative’ LPC students know their grades by the end of August 2020.
Last week the SRA said supervised assessments must be maintained, meaning LPC assessments cannot be moved online. However, the JLD urged the regulator to consider online software such as Examplify. It also suggested using video assessments for advocacy and client interviewing exams; allowing students to submit coursework; and basing results on predicted grades.
Last week, over 200 bar school students wrote an open letter to the Bar Standards Board demanding it does not delay assessments. In an open letter to Mark Neale, director general of the BSB, 204 students said ‘indeterminate’ delays would mean students having to sit exams alongside pupillage – ‘an unreasonable, excessive, and avoidable burden on pupils’ – and could make re-sits impossible. International students may not be in the country in the summer, they added.
The BSB has yet to respond.
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.