Junior lawyers have indicated that they could take their concerns over the proposed solicitors ‘super exam’ to the lord chancellor if the Legal Services Board (LSB) signs off the regulator’s next application to overhaul the qualification process for aspiring solicitors.
The LSB, in the face of widespread opposition, has already approved one stage of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) application to introduce the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
After the first stage was signed off, the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) said the absence of an ‘appeal or oversight mechanism’ in the Legal Services Act, under which the LSB has the power to approve applications, should be addressed.
The Gazette understands that JLD plans to write to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee to outline its concerns and has not ruled out urging the Ministry of Justice to take action. Although the division, which represents around 70,000 junior lawyers, is not opposed to the idea of a centralised exam it says it wants to ensure the proposals are properly reviewed.
Responding to the JLD this week the LSB said that the application it approved only related to the ‘framework’ for the SQE and was not sufficient to allow the SRA to implement the SQE. The SRA, it said, will need to submit another application with more information on operation, cost and diversity impact. It added that any review of legislation is a ‘matter for government’.
The SQE will consist of two parts. Part one will be a computer-based assessment which will include multiple choice questions. Part two will test practical legal skills and be taken after a period of work-based training. It is due to be introduced in September 2021.
Tentative predictions from the SRA have indicated that taking the new exam will cost between £3,000 and £4,500. Although that figure is cheaper than the Legal Practice Course it does not take into account potential preparatory courses or the cost of any retakes.